On January 3, $100 worth of "Democracy Vouchers" will be arriving in the mailboxes of registered voters and lawful permanent residents of Seattle. These vouchers are the result of the successful Honest Elections Seattle Initiative 122 from 2015, which gives ordinary people a stronger voice in our government and limits the power of big money in Seattle elections.
What exactly are Democracy Vouchers? The four $25 vouchers are part of a first of its kind public financing option that will strengthen the role of small donors in Seattle's elections. This allows people from all walks of life to run for office and win, not just the wealthy or the political elite. The vouchers are financed by a small city-wide property tax, and only candidates who opt-in to the public financing program and pledge to obey the terms of the program can receive them.
What candidates are eligible to collect democracy vouchers?
Though only the City Council and City Attorney candidates are eligible for the Democracy Voucher program during the 2017 election, in the future, all candidates for mayor, at-large and district city council, as well as the city attorney are eligible to participate in the Democracy Voucher program. To qualify, they must pledge to obey the terms of the program and collect a minimum number of small contributions at a $10-contribution limit from residents (600 for mayor, 400 for at-large city councilor, 150 for district city councilor or city attorney). Once candidates reach the required fundraising threshold, they will be approved to collect Democracy Vouchers by the SEEC. The terms of the program include agreeing to participate in at least three public debates per election, filing with King County Elections to run for the seat for which they are fundraising, and obeying strict fundraising and spending caps.
How do I receive the vouchers?
If you are a registered voter, they will simply arrive in your mailbox. If you are not a registered voter but are eligible under federal law to give to a candidate, including lawful permanent residents of Seattle (such as those with green cards who are not yet American citizens), you may apply to receive Democracy Vouchers by completing an application on the City of Seattle's website.
How do I use my vouchers once I get them?
Residents can give their Democracy Vouchers directly to eligible candidates and their staff in person, through the mail, dropped off at Seattle Customer Service Centers, or through electronic return methods. For more information on how to turn in your vouchers to candidates, visit www.seattle.gov/democracyvoucher. The SEEC will distribute Democracy Voucher funds to candidates at least twice each month. We recommend not giving the vouchers away as soon as you get them, but holding on to them in a safe space. Once you know all the candidates who have filed, then decide how to allocate your four $25 vouchers.
Does the Progressive Voters Guide recommend which candidates to share my vouchers with?
Not yet-but stay tuned for more.
Where can I learn more information?
Visit the Honest Elections Seattle website at http://www.honestelectionsseattle.org/ or the city's website at http://www.seattle.gov/democracyvoucher