Stock photo options for Democracy Vouchers are nonexistent so heres a dog in a hat.
Stock photo options for Democracy Vouchers are nonexistent so here's a dog in a hat. Photoboyko/Getty

If you, like the editor who assigned me this piece, have a psychological glitch that makes opening your mail so stressful that you let all your bills, correspondence, and issues of Dreamboys Magazine mount so high that the mail carrier literally cannot squeeze one last postcard in your mailbox and has started leaving your mail outside your door, it's time to see a therapist because there is a very important piece of mail sandwiched between your delinquent bills right now. And I'm not talking about the latest buy-one-get-one coupon from Bed Bath & Beyond; I'm talking about Democracy Vouchers.

Democracy Vouchers, which were sent out at the end of February, are a way of publicly financing elections and encouraging non-rich citizens to participate in a part of the democratic process that for too long has been reserved for people with offshore bank accounts: buying elections.

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I'm joking about the buying elections thing, but thanks to an initiative passed by Seattle voters in 2015, the City now provides residents over age 18 with four $25 vouchers, which voters can distribute to the candidate or candidates of their choice. It's easy. You just fill out the form, sign it, date it, and either give it directly to the campaign you want to support (which you can do via the mail or in-person); drop it off, fax, email, or mail it to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Office; or use the Democracy Voucher Online Portal and do the whole thing online. (For relevant addresses and more information check out the Democracy Vouchers website.)

Not all candidates are participating in the program (you can see a list of who has opted in here) but for candidates to qualify, they have to agree to certain campaign finance restrictions. They must, for instance, agree not to take more than $250 in real money (not vouchers) from any one individual as well as agree to caps on campaign spending. For City Council district races, those caps are $75,000 before the primary in August; $150,000 total if they advance to the general.

The point of this program, which is the only one of its kind in the country and is funded by property taxes, is to increase voter participation and to keep big money out of politics. But while it's a good idea in theory, in practice, it's been a bit slow catching on: In 2017, the first year vouchers were used in an election, less than 4 percent of the eligible populace took part. This year isn't looking promising either: Only around 11,000 voters have actually sent their vouchers in. Of course, the general election isn't until November, so there's a lot of time to find a therapist who specializes in mailbox anxiety. And if you already lost the damn things, you're in luck: You can request replacement vouchers here.