Council hears status update on Democracy Vouchers program

On Wednesday, the Council heard a status update on the Democracy Vouchers program.

The Democracy Vouchers program gives Seattle residents who are either registered voters or legal permanent residents four $25 vouchers that can be redeemed as cash contributions to certain city political campaigns. This year, only City Council and City Attorney candidates may participate, and candidates who wish to receive the vouchers must gather supporting signatures and agree to some rules and restrictions on campaign fundraising.

Wayne Barnett and Rene LeBeau from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission presented some statistics on program participation to-date. As of last week, 9,116 vouchers — each worth $25 to a City Council or City Attorney campaign — had been successfully redeemed and paid out to a campaign. Another 5,227 had been verified and were in the queue for payment, and 1,928 had been received but not yet verified.

Almost two thirds of the vouchers had been submitted via mail, almost always all four of their vouchers together and to the same candidate. This is not entirely surprising, given that so far only three candidates have been approved to receive the vouchers (another 10 may yet qualify).

The program got off to a rough start. The vouchers were sent out in January — many argue too early — before Seattle residents had been thoroughly educated about this new program. So in retrospect it should be no surprise that early on many vouchers were rejected either because they hadn’t been filled out correctly or because they were assigned to a candidate who wasn’t eligible to receive them. But the number of rejected vouchers has dropped rapidly in the months since, and so far in June is around 4%.

The outreach and education efforts have utilized a number of channels, including Public Service Announcements in local media and through community organizations. The Democracy Voucher web site has information on the program available in 15 languages.

If you misplaced your democracy vouchers you can order replacements. If you are a legal permanent resident, you can still apply for your $100 in vouchers. If you recently registered to vote, never fear: your vouchers will automatically be sent out.