4 Reasons to Use Your Seattle Democracy Vouchers
So you say you received your Seattle Democracy Vouchers in the mail, but they’re sitting unused in a pile of mail, or hanging from your fridge?
Here are four reasons to find, dust off, and use your Democracy Vouchers:
- Democracy Vouchers is a chance for virtually all Seattle residents to participate in the local elections process.
Did you know that on average, only about 1–2 percent of Seattle residents contribute to candidate campaigns? Do you have an extra $100 in your wallet, ready to go to a participating candidate of your choice? With Democracy Vouchers, now you do!The Democracy Voucher Program is a new public financing system that allows Seattle residents to contribute four $25 certificates, for a total of $100, to the campaigns of participating candidates running for City Council or City Attorney. (The program does not yet include the Mayor’s race but will in 2021.)Almost all Seattle residents can participate—you just need to be at least 18 years old, have lived in Seattle for at least 30 days, and be either: a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a lawful permanent resident (“green card holder”).
- Democracy Vouchers provide a funding source for first-time candidates.
Have you ever thought about running for office yourself, if only it weren’t so expensive? Now you can finance your own campaign for City Council or City Attorney by asking your friends, family, and community for their Democracy Vouchers.
- The Democracy Voucher Program encourages interaction between candidates and Seattle residents.
Now that you have four Democracy Vouchers waiting to be assigned, you just might find that candidates are more likely to come to your door or hold public events, hoping to receive your Democracy Vouchers (and your vote!). In exchange, you can take time to get to know the candidates and ask them about their stances on those issues that are important to you.
- Using Democracy Vouchers is easy.
You can give participating candidates one ($25), two ($50), three ($75), or all four ($100) of your Democracy Vouchers. To assign your Democracy Vouchers, write the name of a participating candidate on each voucher, sign your name, and write the date.
Returning your vouchers is just as easy. You have several options:
- Give your vouchers directly to a candidate’s campaign.
- Return your vouchers to the City of Seattle’s Customer Service Centers.
- Take a picture of the front and back of each voucher, and email the pictures to email@example.com.
- Mail your vouchers to us using the postage-paid envelope!
Find the list of participating candidates at seattle.gov/democracyvoucher. In 2017, candidates have until June 2 to decide whether to participate. You have until November 30 to use your vouchers.
Some other things to know:
Is this the first program of its kind in Seattle?
Yes! In fact, it’s the first program of its kind that we know of anywhere. The Democracy Voucher Program was created through a citizen-led initiative, Initiative 122 (Honest Elections Seattle)—and was approved in November 2015 when Seattle voters authorized a 10-year property tax levy to fund the program. Seattle residents are the first to participate in this type of public campaign financing system.
I lost my Democracy Vouchers. Am I out of luck?
Not at all! Your Democracy Vouchers can be replaced. Email or call us with your name and date of birth, and let us know whether you’d like your new vouchers to come by email or mail (be sure to send us that address too). Vouchers can also be requested in 14 languages other than English.
Can I find out who is giving and receiving Democracy Vouchers?
Yes. Contributions to campaigns, including Democracy Vouchers, are public information. The City of Seattle’s Ethics and Elections Commission is required to post names of contributors, the candidates they contributed to, and the amount, on its website.
Is this a new way to vote?
Democracy Vouchers are a way to contribute to candidate campaigns, not a new way to vote! Watch for your ballot and vote just like usual.
Have questions, need to request replacement vouchers, or want to learn more?
Contributor Jenna Smith is a Senior Communications Specialist for the City of Seattle’s Ethics and Elections Commission.
Originally appeared on AgeWise King County (June 2017)