On Thursday, the Democracy Voucher Program opened for Seattle residents apply for four $25 democracy vouchers to give to candidates running for Seattle City Council or city attorney next year.
“Seattle is the first city in the nation to put democracy vouchers in the hands of its residents,” Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission said. “The goal is to give all of our city’s residents a greater say in our democracy.”
Registered voters in Seattle will automatically receive $100 in vouchers in the mail after January 3rd. Seattle residents who are at least 18 and are either a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or a lawful permanent resident can apply for vouchers here.
Voters can immediately start giving the vouchers to qualifying campaigns for the November election. The new program means Seattle’s first publicly financed election season is about to begin. In his announcement of an exploratory campaign for a possible run for a citywide seat on the City Council, housing advocate Jon Grant cited the vouchers as part of his decision to run.
“Voters can send a message that they want big money out of their politics,” Grant said. If we collect the required four hundred $10 donations then we will run a campaign with the new public voucher system that is answerable only to the people in the fight to make housing affordable, to build new schools, enforce workers’ rights, and put Seattle on a path for climate and racial justice.”
The mayoral race will not be eligible for the program until 2021 as the voucher fundraising limits are higher and the program needs more time to accumulate funds. UPDATE: The program is designed to raise $3 million per year to fund the program for the next decade.
Last year, Seattle voters approved the Democracy Voucher Program, a first-of-its-kind local election law that enacted a property tax levy to fund a voluntary public financing system of giving eligible residents four $25 democracy vouchers that they can then give to candidates.
Supporters of the initiative are hoping it will level the playing field and force candidates to spend more time soliciting campaign donations from a wider pool of voters. Opponents of Honest Election Seattle or I-122, which included two former SEEC chairs, previously raised concerns that the measure would allow candidates to take democracy vouchers while benefiting from an unlimited amount of money through political action committees.
The democracy voucher program includes several other candidate requirements:
- The candidate shall take part in at least three public debates for primary and general elections each (as defined by SEEC).
- The candidate shall not knowingly solicit money for or on behalf of any political action committee, political party, or any organization that will make an independent expenditure for or against any City of Seattle candidate within the same election cycle(appearing as a featured speaker at a fundraising event for a committee or entity shall constitute soliciting money for such committee or entity).
- A candidate for Mayor shall not solicit or accept total contributions from any individual or entity in excess of a total of $500 during one election cycle, and a candidate for City Attorney or City Council shall not solicit or accept total contributions from any individual or entity in excess of a total of $250 during one election cycle.
For more information visit the website or call 206-727-8855.