You remember democracy vouchers, right?
Last fall, Seattle voters passed a brand new public campaign financing system that gives everyone who lives in Seattle free money to donate to local candidates. Now, even broke people get to harness the most powerful weapon in American politics: cold hard cash.
If you're a registered voter, you should have already received democracy vouchers in the mail: four coupons worth $25 each. All residents of the city are entitled to vouchers, including non-citizens and people who aren’t registered voters.
If you’re not a registered voter but want vouchers, call (206) 727-8855 or fill out this form and send it in. (That form is available in languages other than English here.) If you’re a registered voter but haven’t received your vouchers or lost them, call the number above or email
Now, what the fuck should you do with them?
This year, vouchers can go to candidates in the two races for Seattle City Council seats or the race for city attorney. (In four years, you’ll be able to use them in the mayor’s race, too, but not this time around.) That means you can give your vouchers to the following candidates, all of whom have filed to run and say they plan to participate in the democracy voucher program:
Seattle City Council Citywide Position 8:
Seattle City Council Citywide Position 9:
Seattle City Attorney:
(Two other candidates have filed to run but not indicated plans to participate in the voucher program: Charlene Strong in Position 8 and Marguerite Richard in Position 9. The deadline to file is May 19 so other people may jump into these races before then.)
The real question, though, is who the hell should you give them to?
Here’s where we’re going to disappoint you. We’re not saying yet.
Like always, our endorsements will come out the same week ballots are mailed for the August primary, July 12. Only then—once we’ve locked all the candidates in our windowless conference room and forced them to argue with Dan Savage about the youth jail—will we tell you who deserves your money and your vote. You have until November 30 to use your vouchers, so there’s no harm in waiting.
With all that said, candidates aren’t going to want to wait to ask for your money. They need it to get their message out. Our advice: Make them work for it.
The whole point of democracy vouchers is to get new people involved in the political process. While candidates used to work the phones with a list of well-known political donors, now they’re spending at least part of their time out talking to the rest of us, trying to convince us to hand over our vouchers. That means it’s your chance to pin the candidates down on whatever issue you care about. What are they going to do about homelessness? Where do they stand on police reform? Do they support safe consumption sites?
It’s unlikely incumbent city attorney Pete Holmes will get a serious challenger. And incumbent Council Member Lorena González’s only challenger pledging to use democracy vouchers has offered only a vague platform and raised $0.
That means the most competitive race—the place where your vouchers can have the most impact—is the race for the seat being vacated by Council Member Tim Burgess, position 8.
In that race, two candidates—housing advocate Jon Grant and the Washington State Labor Council’s Teresa Mosqueda—have qualified for the democracy voucher program and are already well on the way to funding their campaigns using democracy vouchers. Grant has collected about $83,000 worth of vouchers and Mosqueda has collected about $41,000 worth, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.
Two other notable candidates in that race—Seattle/King County NAACP vice president Sheley Secrest and Mac McGregor, who would be the first transgender person elected to the council —are still in the process of qualifying for the program
The primary election is August 1.