Sawant takes the lead over Orion in race for Seattle City Council District 3

SEATTLE -- Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant increased her lead over challenger Egan Orion on Friday evening in the closely watched race for District 3.

Sawant had a 1,515-vote lead after the latest ballot count was released Friday evening.  She now has about 52 percent of the vote.

Sawant held onto her lead after coming out ahead by over 500 votes during the first vote update Friday afternoon. It marked the first time since vote counting started that she took the lead over Orion, who led by an 8-point margin in early voting results.

King County is still counting ballots and plans to update results again on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

County election officials estimated 95 percent of all general ballots would be counted by Friday night. Officials said in narrow races, like in Seattle City Council District 3, it still could be too close to call.

Kendall Hodson, King County Elections chief of staff,  said at the start of Friday, approximately 13,000 ballots needed to be counted in the race between Sawant and Orion.

Hodson said the county's goal was to have at least 11,000 of those ballots done by Friday night.

“I think we’ll hopefully have a lot of clarity after tonight’s results except for those exceptionally close races. And for those really close races, if they’re still not clear, we’re going to see probably a lot of campaigns out trying to get signature challenges resolved,” said Hodson.

She explained signature challenges weren’t usually a factor in local elections. However, when races are so close, like the one in District 3, every vote matters.

King County Elections had a staff sort through all signature challenge ballots to let voters know they had a chance to fix it.

“It could be either if they forgot to sign the back of their ballot. Or it could be that their signature does not match the one we have on file for them. Typically, that signature was one that they signed at the department of licensing when they got their license or on a voter registration form,” said Hodson.

As of Friday morning, Hodson said there were about 300 ballots in District 3 with a signature challenge. She said the number could increase as the county finished counting votes. Hodson explained all election results will be certified on Nov. 26.

“So, voters have until that Monday before, Nov. 25, to resolve their signature issue with us. So, we’ve got a lot of time still to process those ballots and get those votes counted,” said Hodson.

As more people began to ask for clarification about the threshold of a recount, Hodson described the rules as such: