If you are registered to vote in the city of Seattle, by now you should have received Democracy Vouchers for the 2019 election in your mailbox. For those wondering, “What are these and how do I use them?” here’s a brief explainer.
In November 2015, Seattle voters passed I-122, the goal of which was to create a fairer political playing field for local candidates by publicly funding some electoral races. Paid for via a property tax levy (which averages about $8 per household annually), each registered voter in Seattle would receive four $25 vouchers each election cycle.
These vouchers can be given to any eligible City Council candidate to help fund their election campaign. In order to be eligible, a candidate must sign a pledge affirming (among other things) that they will not take any political donations in excess of $250. They must also collect 150 signatures and small contributions (of between $10 and $250) by the candidate filing deadline, which this year is May 17, 2019.
While individuals can give their vouchers to any eligible council candidate in any council district, if Wallingford residents want to give locally, they already have plenty of options.
In somewhat of a surprise, the two incumbents who represent Wallingford, District 4’s Rob Johnson and District 6’s Mike O’Brien, have both decided not to run for re-election in 2019, opening up the field to nearly a dozen candidates who have already filed to replace them.
All the candidates who have thus far filed in Districts 4 and 6 have signed the pledge declaring themselves eligible to receive Democracy Vouchers. And since we’re talking money right now, here’s a look at how much each candidate has raised as of January 29 (the last date for which records are available). It’s too early for these totals to mean much, but it is interesting to see who has already started to fundraise in earnest.
DISTRICT 4 (all of Wallingford south of 50th)
• Alex Pedersen – $39,113 from 247 donors (including $18,241 from the candidate himself)
• Shaun Scott – $6,638 from 143 donors
• Ethan Hunter – $1,000 from 2 donors
• Sasha Anderson, Emily Myers, Joshua Newman, and Abel Pacheco have raised no money thus far
DISTRICT 6 (Wallingford, north of 50th)
• Kate Martin – $2,110 from 14 donors (including $450 from the candidate herself)
• Daniel Fathi, Jon Lisbin, and Dan Strauss have raised no money thus far
Unless one of these candidates really excites you, my suggestion would be to hold onto your vouchers until the filing deadline in May, because I fully expect this list of candidates to grow in the coming weeks and months. Do keep in mind that candidates can only receive vouchers totaling up to $75,000 for the August 6 primary election, so it’s possible that your favorite candidate could max out at some point, after which you will not be able to give them your voucher.
Once you’ve made your decision on how to use your vouchers, there are three ways to return them. You can give them directly to the candidate’s campaign, return them to Seattle’s elections office in the envelope you were provided, or drop them off at a Customer Service Center (the nearest one to Wallingford is at 4534 University Way NE). Additionally, you will also be able to use your Democracy Vouchers via an online portal, which will be active beginning February 28.
Both inside and outside of Wallingford, 2019 should be an exciting year in local politics and campaigning. With still nearly three months left before the filing deadline, over 40 candidates have filed to run in the seven City Council district elections on the ballot. With so many candidates to choose from, you should be able to find one or two worthy of your “free” vouchers.