Democracy voucher

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A democracy voucher is a method of public financing of political campaigns used in municipal elections in Seattle, Washington.


A sheet of three City of Seattle "democracy vouchers" from 2017 municipal elections

The "democracy voucher" program was approved in a 2015 citywide referendum. Municipal elections in 2017 were the first year the program was implemented.[1][2] It is the first program of its kind in the United States.[3]

Under the program, each registered voter in Seattle received four $25 vouchers which they were eligible to give to any eligible candidates standing for election to municipal office. To be eligible, candidates must have

  1. already raised between $1,500 and $6,000 from a minimum number of donors;
  2. agreed to campaign finance restrictions, including accepting no more than $250 of non-voucher funds from any individual contributor (or $500 for candidates standing for the office of mayor), and
  3. agreed to cap campaign spending to a determined limit. In addition, participating candidates must not have received any contributions from a person or organization with more than $250,000 in service contracts with the city. People who are not eligible to vote, such as permanent residents, were also eligible.[1][4][5]

The program was funded by a $3 million citywide increase in the real estate tax. The system was "first come, first served", with just 47,000 vouchers honored.[3]

Pro and con[edit]

Supporters said the program would increase the involvement of voters in election campaigns by increasing the percent of money given to political campaigns from less than 2 percent to between 10 and 15 percent, as well as limit the influence of special interests.[3]

Opponents claimed that, because the vouchers would be distributed ten months before the general election and were assigned on a "first come, first served" basis, the program would largely benefit incumbent political candidates rather than challengers, because the latter typically launch their campaigns at a later date than incumbents. As a result, incumbents might receive all funds from the program, with available money completely depleted by the time challengers were able to organize campaigns.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Young, Bob (November 3, 2015). "'Democracy vouchers' win in Seattle; first in country". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  2. ^ "Democracy vouchers coming to Seattle mailboxes soon". KING-TV. December 7, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Berman, Russell (November 10, 2015). "Seattle's Experiment With Campaign Funding". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  4. ^ "Democracy Voucher Program: How to Qualify as a Candidate" (PDF). City of Seattle. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  5. ^ Ryan, John (October 25, 2016). "$100 in Monopoly money—and just maybe, a better democracy—headed your way, Seattle". KUOW-FM. Retrieved December 10, 2016.

External links[edit]