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Stories about Washington

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.

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Washington sheriff files appeal against recall petition with state supreme court

An effort to recall Jerry Hatcher from his position as Benton County Sheriff in Washington began in July 2020. The Benton County Sheriff’s Guild is leading the recall effort. They allege that Hatcher performed his duties in an improper manner, committed illegal acts, and violated his oath of office. Hatcher said the guild was refusing to hold deputies accountable. He said the guild would not let him take disciplinary action against employees who committed wrongdoing.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Scott Wolfram approved the recall petition on August 20, 2020. Hatcher filed an appeal against that decision with the Washington Supreme Court. If his appeal is rejected, recall supporters will be able to circulate petitions. Recall supporters must collect 14,000 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

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.

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Democrats Strickland, Doglio advance from WA-10 top-two primary

Marilyn Strickland (D) and Beth Doglio (D) advanced from the top-two primary for Washington’s 10th Congressional District on August 4. With 87% of precincts reporting, Strickland had received 21% of the vote, and Doglio received 14.5%. Kristine Reeves (D) was third with 12.9% and Rian Ingrim (R) fourth with 11.1%.

Strickland is CEO of the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce. She served as mayor of Tacoma from 2010 to 2017. Her endorsers include former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former Washington Govs. Gary Locke (D) and Christine Gregoire (D).

Doglio is a member of the state House of Representatives. She was first elected in 2016. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and LEAP Forward are among Doglio’s endorsers.

Nineteen candidates ran in the top-two primary: eight Democrats, eight Republicans, one independent, one Essential Workers Party candidate, and one Congress Sucks Party candidate. Incumbent Rep. Denny Heck (D), in office since 2013, sought election as lieutenant governor, leaving the seat open.

Between 2014 and 2018, there were three U.S. House general elections in Washington featuring candidates from the same party. In both 2014 and 2016, Republicans Dan Newhouse and Clint Didier advanced from Washington’s 4th Congressional District primaries. In 2018, D. Adam Smith (D) and Sarah Smith (D) advanced from Washington’s 9th District primary. Washington has 10 congressional districts.

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Inslee and Culp advance from Washington’s top-two gubernatorial primary

Incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Loren Culp (R) defeated 34 other candidates to advance in Washington’s top-two primary for governor on August 4, 2020. In a top-two primary, all candidates regardless of party affiliation run in the same primary. The top-two vote-getters advance to the general election.

Eleven Republicans, five Democrats, five unaffiliated candidates, three independents, and 12 candidates affiliated with third parties were on the ballot. As of 10:15 p.m. Western Time, Inslee had received 52% of the vote followed by Culp with 17% with an estimated 50% of precincts reporting. No other candidate received more than 10% of the vote.

Inslee, first elected in 2012, is seeking a third term. One Washington governor has ever served a third consecutive term: Daniel Evans (R), who left office in 1977. Inslee was a 2020 Democratic primary candidate for president and suspended his campaign in August 2019.

Culp is the Chief of Police in Republic. He served as a combat engineer and owned Stamped Concrete, a construction business. Culp was also a police officer and narcotics detective before being appointed police chief.

Inslee last won re-election in 2016 with 54% of the vote to Bill Bryant’s (R) 45%.


Recall petition filed against Washington sheriff

An effort to recall Jerry Hatcher from his position as Benton County Sheriff in Washington began in July 2020. The Benton County Sheriff’s Guild is leading the recall effort. They said Hatcher had performed his duties in an improper manner, committed illegal acts, and violated his oath of office. Over 90% of the guild members participated in a vote on the matter in June 2020, and 100% of those who voted were in favor of starting the recall effort.

Hatcher said the guild was refusing to hold deputies accountable. He said the guild would not let him take disciplinary action against employees who committed wrongdoing. “It’s been hard watching what goes on in the nation,” Hatcher said. “And for the first time, I’m seeing it within my own organization.”

Benton County Sergeant Jason Erickson filed the recall petition with the Benton County Auditor on July 20, 2020. The next step is for a judge to rule whether or not there is sufficient evidence to support the claims in the recall petition. If the judge rules in favor of the petition, Hatcher will be able to file an appeal. If he does not, or if his appeal is rejected, recall supporters will be able to circulate petitions.

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.

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Special election primary being held in Washington Senate district

A special election primary is being held on August 4 for District 38 of the Washington State Senate. June Robinson (D), Kelly Fox (D), and Bernard Moody (R) are running in the special election. The top two candidates in the primary will compete in a general election on November 3. Candidates are running to serve the remainder of the unexpired two-year term.

The seat became vacant after the resignation of John McCoy on April 17. McCoy had represented the district since 2013. Robinson was appointed to the seat by the Snohomish County Council on May 13.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 29-20 majority in the Washington State Senate. Washington has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of July, 50 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 25 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Additional reading:
https://ballotpedia.org/State_legislative_special_elections,_2020
https://ballotpedia.org/Washington_State_Senate_District_38



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:


Washington Supreme Court schedules sheriff recall appeal for September 10

Two efforts to recall Adam Fortney from his position as sheriff of Snohomish County, Washington, have been approved to circulate petitions. The efforts began after Fortney announced on Facebook in April 2020 that his office would not enforce restrictions Gov. Jay Inslee (D) set in place in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) 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 violated his oath of office.

The first recall petition was approved for circulation on May 15, 2020, and the second was approved for circulation on June 2, 2020. The two recall efforts had acted independently of each other as of June 22, 2020. Recall supporters must collect 44,494 signatures in six months to get the recall on the ballot.

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.” He filed a motion for the court to reconsider the decision approving the second recall petition for circulation, but the motion was rejected on June 12, 2020. Fortney appealed to the Washington Supreme Court on June 22, 2020. The court scheduled September 10, 2020, as the date to decide the appeal. If the court rejects the appeal, recall supporters of the second effort will be able to begin collecting signatures.

Fortney was elected sheriff on November 5, 2019, with 55% of the vote.

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Signatures filed for D.C. ballot initiative on psilocybin mushrooms and entheogenic plants and fungi

On July 6, 2020, the campaign Decriminalize Nature D.C. reported filing 36,249 signatures with the D.C. Board of Elections for a ballot initiative on entheogenic plants and fungi. In Washington, D.C., the number of signatures required for a ballot initiative is equal to 5 percent of the district’s registered voters. As of May 31, there were 496,701 registered voters in Washington, D.C.; therefore, the signature requirement is 24,836 valid signatures.
Known as Initiative 81, the ballot initiative would declare that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi as among the lowest law enforcement priorities. Initiative 81 would define entheogenic plants and fungi as species of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn. Examples include psilocybin mushrooms—also known as magic mushrooms or shrooms—peyote, and iboga. The ballot initiative would also ask the D.C. Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for D.C. to cease the prosecution of residents who engage with entheogenic plants and fungi.
The D.C. Board of Elections has 30 days from July 6 to determine if enough of the submitted signatures are valid for the initiative to appear on the November 3 ballot. D.C. also has a distribution requirement for signatures, requiring that the total number of submitted signatures include 5 percent of the registered electors in each of at least 5 of the city’s 8 wards.
In 2019, Denver, Colorado, became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Denver Initiated Ordinance 301, which received 50.6 percent of the vote, declared that the adult use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms were of the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities. Initiated Ordinance 301 prohibited the city from spending resources on enforcing related penalties.
Voters in Oregon could decide a psilocybin-related initiative on November 3, 2020. The Oregon Psilocybin Society submitted signatures on June 29, 2020.


Washington initiative signature deadline passes with no campaigns submitting signatures

Citizens of Washington may initiate legislation as either a direct state statute—called Initiative to the People (ITP) in Washington—or indirect state statute—called Initiative to the Legislature (ITL) in Washington. In Washington, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments.
As of July 1, 2020, 229 ITPs had been filed for the 2020 cycle. The signature submission deadline for 2020 Initiatives to the People passed on July 2, 2020. To qualify for the 2020 ballot, 259,622 signatures were required. No campaigns submitted signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office by the deadline.
The 2020 election is the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot will not feature a ballot initiative.
Two measures are certified to appear on the 2020 ballot in Washington. One is a veto referendum targeting the repeal of Senate Bill 5395, which was designed to require comprehensive sexual health education in public schools. The Washington Legislature referred the other measure to the ballot. It would allow the legislature to invest the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Account and the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account into stocks or other methods of investment.
A total of 60 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during even-numbered years from 2000 through 2018. Of the total, 58% (35) were approved and 42% (25) were defeated.
Citizens may file Initiatives to the Legislature (ITL) targeting the 2021 ballot. The signature deadline for 2021 ITLs is December 31, 2020. A total of 259,622 valid signatures are required to qualify an Initiative to the Legislature for submission to the 2021 legislature and for potential inclusion on the 2021 ballot.
If enough signatures are submitted, the legislature must take one of three actions:
  1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  2. The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
  3. The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd-numbered years from 1999 through 2019. Of the total, 56% (34) were approved and 44% (27) were defeated.