MARCH 10, 1997
How the recall process works
by Al Hooper
On March 3, a recall was submitted to the King County Board of Elections on three fire commissioners. The recall process is governed by Revised Code of Washington, Chapter 29.82. The following paragraphs summarize the chapter:
To initiate a recall vote for an elected official whose duties are entirely within one county, any citizen, or group of citizens, can petition that County's Board of Elections. Such a petition must contain two or more charges for either: (1) malfeasance; (2) misfeasance; or (3) violation of oath of office. (See definitions at the end of this article.)
Additionally, the petition must be accompanied by supporting documentation that recites facts, and a signed statement swearing that the facts are true, to the best of the petitioner's knowledge.
Immediately after the petition is submitted, it goes to both the subject of the petition and the county prosecuting attorney. The PA then has 15 days to summarize the petition into 200 words or less. This synopsis is sent to the petitioner, the subject, and the county superior court.
The superior court then has 15 days to conduct a hearing, and both the petitioner and the subject, and their counsel, may attend. The hearing cannot address the truth of the evidence, only whether it is sufficient to substantiate the charges. It also checks the adequacy of the synopsis.
If the court has not struck down the petition, the petitioner now has a maximum of 180 days to collect signatures in support of the petition. The number of signatures required is 35 percent of the total number of votes cast for all the candidates for the office at the preceding election.
After checking the petitions for valid signatures, the Board of Elections (remember them?) will certify the recall petition, and put it on the ballot for the next election. If the next election is more than 60 days after the certification, a special election will be called.
The form of the ballot is described in the law, but it is important to note that the subject is allowed to submit a rebuttal for inclusion on the ballot, limited to 250 words. The ballot itself is simple: One box is marked FOR RECALL, and the other is marked AGAINST RECALL.
A simple majority is all that's needed to determine the outcome of the election. The law does not make any distinction regarding voter turnout or percentages of previous elections.
Chapter 29.82.010 defines both misfeasance and malfeasance as any wrongful conduct affecting, interrupting, or interfering with official duties. It further defines misfeasance as the performance of a duty in an improper manner, and malfeasance as the commission of an unlawful act.
Violation of oath of office is defined as the willful neglect or failure to perform a duty imposed by law.