I Have Democracy Vouchers Now!

Thanks for the $100, Seattle! I promise to contribute it responsibly.

Photo credit: Ally Aubry, CC BY 2.0.

Yesterday afternoon, I received four democracy vouchers in the mail.

I know you’re probably wondering what “democracy vouchers” are, because Seattle is the first city in the country to give its residents $100 in vouchers to donate to the candidate of their choice:

‘Democracy vouchers’ win in Seattle; first in country

The initiative will work like this: For each city election cycle, or every two years, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) will mail four $25 vouchers to each voter. They can only be used in Seattle campaigns for mayor, city council and city attorney.

Voters will assign the vouchers by signing and mailing them to candidates or to the SEEC, or by submitting them online.

The four $25 democracy vouchers I received yesterday can only be given to candidates running for Seattle city council or city attorney; I’ll be able to give vouchers to a mayoral candidate in 2021.

There’s something… wait for it… democratizing about giving all Seattle registered voters $100 to donate to the candidate(s) of their choice. Regardless of income level, we can all become more active participants in local politics, first by deciding which candidates should receive our vouchers—which by definition means paying more attention to what’s going on in the city council/city attorney world—and second by making the campaign contribution.

Since you’re probably wondering how the Democracy Voucher program is funded, I’ll quote from the brochure that arrived with my vouchers:

How is the Democracy Voucher Program funded?

I-122 authorized a maximum property tax increase of $3 million per year to fund the program for the next 10 years. The Democracy Voucher Program costs the average homeowner about $11.50 per year.

Would you like your local government to implement a similar democracy voucher plan? Would you be okay with the property tax increase? Would having four $25 democracy vouchers in your hand make you more likely to research your city council candidates and not just skip that category on your ballot because you feel badly about picking a name at random?

Also: would you pay more attention to what your city council does after you’ve submitted your vouchers and your vote?

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