The resurgence of Kshama Sawant in her race with Richard Conlin for the incumbent’s City Council seat continues.
UPDATE 4:40 PM (11/14): Sawant continued her slow but steady accumulation of votes over Conlin on Thursday, surpassing him by 1,148 votes. Thursday’s ballot release also put the race out of automatic recount territory. The two candidates are now separated by .67% — an automatic recount is triggered if the race is within a .5% difference.
UPDATE Wednesday, November 13th, 4:45 PM: Sawant’s surge continued with Wednesday’s only scheduled vote count update. The challenger has now opened a 402-vote lead over her rival.
UPDATE Tuesday, November 12th, 4:40 PM: Following the release of Tuesday’s batch of ballots, Sawant has pulled ahead of Conlin by 41 votes. If Sawant continues to post similar leads over Conlin in the next couple days she will not only have caught the incumbent from behind — she’ll have won outright, no recount required. If these current percentages hold, however, an automatic recount would be triggered.
“We’re very hopeful we’re going to make history,” said Sawant campaign manager Ramy Khalil, who attributed the late ballot surge to October campaign endorsements.
On election night Conlin was more than 7 points ahead of Sawant, with a 6,000 vote lead. Sawant refused to concede the race — good thing since Sawant has continued to narrow in on the incumbent. As of Friday Sawant was only trailing Conlin by 1,237 votes, narrowing the race to under 1%. If elected, Sawant would be the first socialist candidate ever elected to the city council. Her pro-worker, pro-middle class and anti-poverty messages have apparently resonated with voters — at least in this race. CHS has reported on her efforts to champion a $15 minimum wage and rent control in the city.
The campaigns got word last week that some 5,600 ballots had been declared invalid, likely due to issues with ballot signatures. Over the weekend both campaigns launched efforts to reach out to voters whose ballots had been kicked backed.
Voters whose signatures were “challenged” need to sign an affidavit before November 26 when the vote is certified. Volunteers for the Sawant campaign were taking affidavits door-to-door as Conlin volunteers called their supporters to remind them to check the status of their ballots.
You can check the status of your ballot here.
On average around 2% of ballots are “challenged” each year, which usually means the ballot signature does not match the one on file, according to King County Elections.
Last week, the race continued to near recount territory. According to state law, a machine recount would be triggered if the final difference between the two candidates is under 2,000 votes and within one-half of one percent. A hand recount would be triggered if the difference is less than 150 votes and under one-quarter of one percent.
There is also a scenario for a candidate to request a new count:
“Additionally, a candidate can request a recount even if the vote totals aren’t within that margin. But they have to pay for it themselves: 25 cents a vote for a hand recount, and 15 cents a vote for a machine recount.”
In a message to their supporters, the Sawant campaign said they expected to surpass Conlin when Tuesday’s numbers ship:
It has been four days since the last ballot drop on Friday evening, in which Sawant gained 1,458 votes on incumbent Richard Conlin, winning 58.5% of the new votes tallied. Sawant has gained steadily on Conlin from the original 6,136 vote margin Election Night, and now trails by 1,237 votes. Should last week’s trends hold, Sawant will pass Conlin in either the 4:30 or 8:30 ballot tally releases tonight.
In all likelihood we’ll have to wait at least a couple more days to determine whether a clear winner will emerge or if the election will go to a recount.
The outcome of the race could also have implications for 2015’s first round of district-based council elections. Conlin, who was first elected in 1997, has already said this would be his last round on council following a bruising campaign this year. Win or lose, Sawant would seem to be a likely candidate to run for the Capitol Hill/Central District dominated District 3 seat.
“It’s coming down to the wire,” Conlin said in a recent email to supporters. “The race is extremely tight and we need to make sure every vote is counted.”