Mayoral recall effort underway in Seattle

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is facing a recall effort over actions by the Seattle Police Department during protests following the death of George Floyd. Petitions were approved for circulation on July 10, 2020. Recall organizers have until January 6, 2021, to gather about 54,000 valid signatures in order to put the recall election on the ballot.

The recall effort is organized by Elliott Grace Harvey, Alan Meekins Jr., Courtney Scott, Leah Solomon, and Charlie Stone. Petition filings made seven accusations against Durkan. King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts found that the second charge was sufficient grounds for the recall effort to move forward. The second charge read, “Mayor Durkan endangered the peace and safety of the community and violated her duties under RCW 35.18.200, Seattle Charter Art. V, Sec. 2, SMC 10.02.010A, and her oath to uphold US Const., Amends. 1 and 4, Washington Constitution, Art. 1 Sec. 3-5, when she failed to institute new polices and safety measures for the Seattle Police Department when using crowd control measures during a public health emergency.”

The other six charges were dismissed as being insufficient for a recall election. The Superior Court hearings were to determine if the accusations were legally sufficient for a recall election. It is not the role of the court to decide whether any alleged facts are true or not.

A spokesperson for Mayor Durkan provided a written statement following the court decision to allow recall organizers to begin gathering signatures. The statement read, “In the midst of unprecedented challenges for the City, Mayor Durkan consistently has acted to protect the City’s public health and safety and to respect the constitutional rights of peaceful protestors. She also believes Chief Best has exercised her challenging duties lawfully and appropriately to protect the public peace. At this stage, the Court is required to accept the petition’s allegations as factually true. Even under this low standard, the Court dismissed six of the seven claims in the petition, in addition to dismissing outright another petition. The Mayor believes the remaining claim will be dismissed.”

A separate recall effort, relating to accusations of misuse of police force during protests, was deemed insufficient by the King County Superior Court on July 10.

The Washington Constitution allows for the recall of elected officials if they violate their oath of office or “in commission of some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office.” To put a recall on the ballot, recall supporters have 180 days to collect valid signatures equal to 25% of the total vote for the office in the last regular election.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Additional reading:
Laws governing recall in Washington
Political recall efforts, 2020