Politics

Seattle Pushes For 'Election Vouchers' To Combat Big Money In Politics

| by Robert Fowler
'polling place vote here' sign'polling place vote here' sign

Support for the Honest Elections Seattle ballot initiative continues to grow in Seattle, Washington. If passed, the initiative would make Seattle the first U.S. city to hold publicly financed elections.

The ballot is called I-122 Honest Elections and will be up for vote on Nov. 3, Huffington Post reports. The proposed system would put caps on how much money campaigning politicians could raise privately and enforce stricter transparency and rules on contributions. Each registered voter would be given four $25 vouchers that they could then give to a candidate of their choice.

The initiative was formulated by the Sightline Institute. The nonprofit’s executive director, Alan During, hopes that Seattle will become the first of many cities to adopt this system.

“If we can make [vouchers] work in Seattle, if we can demonstrate that it’s a straightforward task of public administration to operate a system that gives 'democracy vouchers' to every voter in a large city like Seattle, we’re hopeful that democracy vouchers will then spread to other places as well,” During told The Huffington Post.

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I-122 Honest Elections has been proposed to help candidates who do not attract high-spending donors and voters who don’t normally have the money to contribute in elections, according to King5. The initiative is also designed to combat the growing concern in the U.S. that elections are bought by big-money interests.

"Voters are concerned that big money interests have too much power over our government, and what that forms is apathy,” supporter Heather Weiner of the “Yes I-122” campaign told King5. “It forms distrust and then we see a decline in voter turnout. What we're trying to do through I-122 is increase voter trust and involvement in the democratic system.

The proposal has faced opposition in the form of the “No On Election Vouchers” campaign, headed by former Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission Chair Robert Mahon.

“I am pretty concerned that this particular proposal, while very well intentioned, is likely to be counterproductive and put us in a worse spot than we are right now in Seattle,” Mahon told The Huffington Post.

His concern is that incumbents will take advantage of the new system and that voters will be all-too eager to give their vouchers away to the first candidate who asks.

“When people who already have that power and are trying to protect it, are telling voters 'this is going to be dangerous; you can't handle this; there's going to be abuse,' really raises questions," Weiner said, according to King5.

The I-122 Honest Elections initiative currently has the support of 60 percent of Seattle Democrat voters.

Sources: Huffington Post, King5 / Photo Source: IIP Voting Archive/Flickr, Theresa Thompson/Flickr