There are multitudes of ways to exercise your democracy – but for some, barriers can make it more challenging. When it comes to voting, for instance, not everyone can practice this right due to disenfranchisement, citizenship status or not having a permanent address. Fortunately, now there is a new opportunity for all Seattle residents to be more involved in supporting local candidates with the Democracy Voucher Program.
In November 2015, the citizen-led Honest Elections Seattle (Initiative 122) was passed. This initiative provides Seattle residents the opportunity to have more of a say of in who represents them on the electoral ballot. Under the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), eligible Seattle residents will receive four $25 democracy vouchers that they can choose to contribute to campaigns of candidates running for City Council or City Attorney positions. This program is set to be funded for the next 10 years. As of now, the Mayor’s race is not included, but the program will expand to cover it beginning 2021.
Seattle residents can now fund their own campaigns by collecting Democracy Vouchers with compliance to the program rules. It takes large amounts of money and resources to run a campaign that has a chance of winning. With the introduction of the vouchers, community members can help fund the campaigns of individuals who may not be able to run a successful campaign alone. This allows a greater number of people to participate and provide support to candidates they would like to see in City positions.
You must live in Seattle and be at least 18 years old to participate. You must also be either a:
- U.S. Citizen
- U.S. national
- lawful permanent resident (“green card holder”)
If you are already a registered voter, you should have received your vouchers in January. If you may have misplaced your vouchers, you can contact the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission for replacements: they will need your full name, birthday, and preference for receiving replacement vouchers (email or mail).
Q: “If I do not have a permanent address, can I still participate?”
A: Yes. You may register at an address where you spend a substantial part of your time or have some connection. This could be a previously permanent address, shelter, or similar place.
Q: Can individuals with a criminal record or unresolved legal financial obligations (LFOs) still receive vouchers?
A: Yes. There are no limitations for individuals with a criminal record or financial obligations on accessing the Democracy Voucher Program.
Using your vouchers
Democracy Vouchers can be used any time now through November 30, 2017. The General Election is November 7, 2017, but vouchers can still be used post-election to cover post-election campaign expenses. Candidates have until June 2 to decide whether to participate.
All contributions to campaigns are made public information; SEEC will publish a list of candidates who received vouchers, and the names of people who gave those candidates vouchers, on the program website.
Visit the Democracy Voucher Program website for more information — including which candidates are participating — or call 206.727.8855 (Language assistance available in 15 different languages!). For more updates follow the program via Facebook and Twitter.
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