Where should you put that sweet, sweet, free money????
Where should you put that sweet, sweet, free* money???? Lester Black

The most common type of email to the Stranger Election Control Board over the last couple of months has contained variations on this question: "Who the fuck do I send my Democracy Vouchers to???"

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There aren't usually that many question marks, but we can feel the urgency in each email. Hundreds of thousands of Seattleites have yet to send in their vouchers. What were you waiting for? Us to tell you what to do? Sure, we can do that.

The situation is confusing with this new-as-of-2015 program because there's a voucher threshold that a lot of candidates (read: 8 of them) have already reached ($75,000 worth of vouchers for the primary, $150,000 for the general).

So, with your Shaun Scotts and your Tammy Moraleses now off-limits—along with Lisa Herbold, Egan Orion, Alex Pedersen, Dan Strauss, and Jim Pugel—who should you send your free* money to?

We, as the SECB, obviously want you to be strong, independent thinkers. But we definitely wouldn't be upset if you send your vouchers to the good candidates.

You know, the ones we endorsed.

The ones you voted for in the primary.

But, most of the obvious choices, like, say, the person running in your district, have probably reached the Democracy Voucher contribution limit.

The only candidates who haven't reached the Democracy Voucher cap, and who we at the SECB endorsed, are:

  • Debora Juarez in District 5
  • Andrew Lewis in District 7
  • Juarez is running against Anne Davison Sattler, a NIMBY lawyer and previous executive for the Seattle SuperSonics. Sattler is not participating in the Democracy Voucher program. She's also the darling of paranoid neighborhood groups like Safe Seattle.

    Lewis is running against former Seattle Police Department cop Jim Pugel, who is anti-density and upzone averse.

    You can still send actual cash to candidates if you want to. The limit for individual contributions to individual candidates varies. Normally, an individual can donate $250 plus up to $100 in Democracy Vouchers (but the latter part is irrelevant if the candidate has reached the Democracy Voucher limit). If a candidate is "released" from the Democracy Voucher contribution limits (which can happen at a candidate's request if their opponent has received donations and/or been the beneficiary of independent expenditures that collectively total more than $75,000), then the cap on individual contributions to the "released" candidate goes from $250 to $500—a total that includes one's Democracy Voucher contributions.

    You can also send your vouchers symbolically to a candidate who's already hit the max they can receive, but in that case they won't actually get your voucher money. We recommend not doing that while there are still viable coffers that need to be lined.

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    It's also important to note that while we as individual citizens are capped when it comes to contributing to the candidates we believe in ($100 in Democracy Vouchers if a candidate isn't maxed out, $250 in cash), so-called Political Action Committees, thanks to Citizens United, have no cap on how much they can independently raise or spend to influence elections. That unlimited spending is tipped in favor of the candidates we did not endorse. Instead, it's headed for candidates who are endorsed by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce's PAC, "Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy," which has received its largest cash infusions—$450,000—from Amazon.

    There is nearly $4 million worth of PAC money in the Seattle City Council elections so far. But Lorena Gonzalez wants to do something about that for future elections.

    *Not actually free. It's funded by your property taxes.

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