Washington Supreme Court allows sheriff recall to move forward

The Washington Supreme Court ruled on September 10, 2020, that a recall effort against Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney could begin circulating petitions. It is the second recall effort against Fortney to be approved for circulation this year.

The efforts began after Fortney announced in April 2020 that his office would not enforce restrictions Gov. Jay Inslee (D) set in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The first recall petition said that Fortney “used his position as an elected official to encourage citizens to defy the law and violate the Governor’s Emergency Proclamations.” The second recall petition said that Fortney had “endangered the peace and safety of the community and violated his statutory duties.”

The first recall petition was approved for circulation on May 15 and has until November to collect signatures. The second petition was initially approved for circulation on June 2, but Fortney filed an appeal with the Washington Supreme Court on June 22. That effort has until March 10, 2021, to collect signatures. Both efforts must collect 44,494 signatures to get on the ballot. As of September 11, 2020, the two recall efforts were acting independently of each other.

In response to the recall efforts, Fortney said he stood by his statement that the sheriff’s department “will not be enforcing an order preventing religious freedoms or constitutional rights.” Fortney was elected sheriff on November 5, 2019, with 55% of the vote.

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
Recall campaigns in Washington
Political recall efforts, 2020
County official recalls