In Our View: Democracy vouchers return power to voters
There we find that at least 100 Americans have donated more than $1 million to indirect campaign groups for the 2022 election. Following the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, there are no limits on what influencers may donate to outside super PACs, which then can assist with a candidate’s campaign.
The result is a bastardization of democracy, with wealthy political activists wielding oversized clout on elections. All of which makes Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” worthy of consideration.
In 2015, Seattle voters approved a system designed to give average citizens more of a say in how local campaigns are financed. The vote established a 10-year, $30 million property tax levy to fund the vouchers, and it remains the only such program in the nation.
Under the plan, Seattle residents receive four $25 vouchers in the mail and may donate them to any candidate who agrees to participate in the program. The vouchers, like most political donations, are public record.
The voucher program was implemented in 2017, meaning it has been in place for three off-year cycles that feature local elections. And it has drawn attention from political watchers throughout the country.
“We have a really deep interest in it,” Brian J. McCabe, an associate professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., told The Seattle Times. “It could revolutionize local elections.”
McCabe is the co-author of a new study about the program. That study found that residents are increasingly donating the vouchers — and that donations increasingly reflect the city’s demographics. “There are just more and more donors every year,” he said, “and one of the program’s success stories is that more people are participating in local elections.”