‘Grassroots voting stations’ aren’t illegal — but they are core to the District 3 recall fight

A D3 “grassroots voting station” (Image: @mattcaucus)

In the end, it will add only a percentage point or three to the turnout but these votes are exactly the kind being most contested in the District 3 recall fight over Kshama Sawant.

“These are folks who didn’t know there was an election or people who lost their ballots,” Solidarity spokesperson Bryan Koulouris tells CHS. “Overwhelmingly, they are renters, and overwhelmingly, tend to be supporters.”

Koulouris says the campaign is also highly aware and highly careful about potentially violating voting laws over electioneering.

The Recall Sawant campaign and “yes” supporters say that “grassroots voting stations” being staffed by Kshama Solidarity across District 3 are unethical and should be against the law.

“During the process of downloading, printing, and then filling out, they can’t campaign, can’t urge them how to vote,” Koulouris says of the guidelines being provided about the printing stations.

King County Elections says it began hearing complaints about the ballot printing during the General Election. Elections officials say registered voters are able to access and print their ballot online. “This is primarily for our service and overseas voters, voters with a disability, as well as for local voters who maybe lost their ballot or realized they didn’t receive one at the last minute. It saves folks a trip to a Vote Center,” a statement from KCE reads.

KCE says campaigns and organizations are also allowed to help people print their ballot. “Even if someone prints out a ballot and returns their original ballot that we mailed to their house, we will only count one,” the statement reads. “Each ballot – even those printed online – have their own unique identifiers that are tied to the individual voter so we cannot accept more than one ballot per voter.”

Officials say the printed ballots go through “exactly the same process as mail ballots.”

“Our alternative format team confirms that they voter is appropriately registered and hasn’t already returned a ballot. The signature is verified – printed ballots required the exact same declaration as the one on the back of the return envelope. And then it’s processed just like every other ballot.”

The grey area comes in the state statute prohibiting electioneering at any “voting center or ballot drop location” by “election officers” —

Any election officer who does any electioneering at a voting center or ballot drop location during the voting period that begins eighteen days before and ends the day of a special election, general election, or primary is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction must be fined in any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars and pay the costs of prosecution.

Koulouris says separating the politics from the process works. “There is a conversation sometimes before and after, of course,” he said, but the volunteers and workers are “extremely strict” about the process of actually printing and during any voting. “No politics.”

Recall campaign manager Henry Bridger has not responded to requests for comment from CHS but the campaign has spoken out about the printing stations on social media.

Turnout 12/1 to 12/6 via King County Elections

Turnout in the vote has now reached 38% with the strongest numbers overall and even in the first six days of December showing the strongest turnout in the district’s north and along the Lake Washington shoreline. If the Solidarity campaign’s promise of “the greatest turnout the vote effort Seattle has ever seen” is going to come to fruition, will be a late-forming wave.

The number of “challenged” ballots, meanwhile, over issues like signature matches, has so far disproportionately affected younger voters with more than 2% of ballots returned by voters 25-34 facing challenges vs. less than 1% of those from voters 65+. 18 to 24-year-olds, meanwhile, have seen 4.9% of their ballots challenged. Typically, King County says about 1.5% of ballots will be challenged in any election. Voters will have weeks until certification to verify issues like signature matches but many will not be aware or go through the effort to verify.

Of the more than 400 challenges thus far, less than 100 have involved ballots received via drop boxes, the county says.

UPDATE: King County Elections says it has received around 70 to 80 “questions/concerns” via email and phone related to “pop-up ballot printing.”

Ballots in the recall were mailed beginning November 17th. Your vote must be postmarked or dropped in a county drop box by 8 PM on Tuesday, December 7th — at this point, we recommend you choose any of the available King County dropboxes across the city to make your vote is not left out. Learn more and check on your ballot at info.kingcounty.gov. Only voters in District 3 — encompassing Capitol Hill, First Hill, the Central District, Montlake, Madison Valley, and Madison Park — can participate.

The Solidarity campaign, meanwhile, plans to have the printing resources available right up until the 8 PM deadline Tuesday night and the campaign’s Election Night event at Chop Suey, Koulouris said.

And if a “yes” voter needs their ballot printed? Kshama Solidarity campaign people will be happy to help, Koulouris said.

SAWANT RECALL: Turnout update, the three charges, and CHS coverage of the City Hall and mayor’s home protests


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‘Grassroots voting stations’ aren’t illegal — but they are core to the District 3 recall fight