The Seattle Ethics and Elections Committee began mailing out 2021’s Democracy Vouchers to eligible Seattle residents in February. Among the ads, bills and letters you may have received, you might have been surprised to find mail from the City of Seattle Democracy Voucher Program and the four vouchers inside. You may even still be eligible if you did not receive them. If you’re wondering what these Democracy Vouchers are, how to use them, if they are worth using, or other related questions— you’ve come to the right article.

What are Democracy Vouchers?

Democracy Vouchers are a publicly funded resource for Seattle residents to make financial contributions to candidates of their choosing! Each eligible resident receives four vouchers of $25 each, which they can assign to support any participating candidate running for City of Seattle elections. This includes candidates running for Mayor, City Attorney and the two City Council At-Large positions on the ballot. Assigning a voucher to a candidate is like donating money to their campaign, except your vouchers have already been paid for. Essentially, this is money given to you to use as donations toward the candidates you support!

Who in my household should receive Democracy Vouchers?

Every individual who is a Seattle resident over the age of 18 is eligible to receive $100 worth of Democracy Vouchers, provided that they are a U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, or a lawful permanent resident (“green card holder”). If you lack a permanent residence but meet the conditions above, you can still receive your Democracy Vouchers by filling out a short and easy application at http://www.seattle.gov/democracyvoucher/i-am-a-seattle-resident/apply-now.

You do not need to be a registered voter to qualify to receive your Democracy Vouchers. All registered voters will automatically receive their Democracy Vouchers in the mail (unless of course they have opted to receive them online by email instead), but those who are not registered voters and eligible can complete the application linked above to receive theirs. 

How is the Democracy Vouchers Program helpful?

The program helps to amplify the voices of regular people in political elections. Democracy Vouchers makes Seattle elections more equitable by reducing the leverage of large donors by providing every resident $100 to donate. This gives residents who could not previously afford to donate the ability to do so. The program also enables candidates who may not have other large sources of funding to have a fair chance in the election and with their campaign. The program also allows green card holders and U.S. Nationals living in Seattle to participate in elections through this program as people who are affected by the decisions made by the politicians in their area. 

Why should I use the Vouchers?

Aside from the fact that you’ve received them and can help level the playing field for candidates— as an AAPI, it is especially important that you make your voice heard. Campaign funding is a way to do so. By assigning Democracy Vouchers to the candidates you feel best represent your values and needs, you are supporting them with the critical funds a candidate needs to create a competitive campaign. Each voucher can go a long way in aiding a candidate’s success. 

How do I use Democracy Vouchers?

If you’ve received the Democracy Vouchers by mail, all you need to do is follow the easy step-by-step instructions that come with it. These instructions involve writing an eligible candidate’s name on the Democracy Voucher to assign it to that candidate and signing your name. You are allowed to assign your vouchers to any participating candidate. You may assign each $25 voucher to different candidates or assign multiple to the same candidate. They can be used anytime before November 30, 2021, and can be used all at once or separately throughout the year as long as they are used before the deadline.

The earlier you use them, the earlier your candidate can begin to use the funds for their campaign! If you know who you want to assign your vouchers to, the sooner you return them the better. Funds are particularly important long before election day to be able to run a successful and competitive campaign.

How do I return my Democracy Vouchers?

There are plenty of ways to return your assigned vouchers! The mail you received your Democracy Vouchers in should come with a prepaid envelope so that you can drop them off in any mailbox or at any post office. You can even send your completed vouchers to the candidate directly by finding their information on their website. If you’d like to submit your vouchers online, you can do so by visiting the Democracy Voucher Online Portal on seattle.gov or email a scanned copy or clear photo of both sides of your vouchers to [email protected]. Physical drop of locations include any Seattle Public Library or any ballot box during an election.

What if I don’t use my Democracy Vouchers?

 If you do not use your vouchers by the end of the election cycle, then they will expire and the funds will carry over to be used in the next election cycle. Democracy Vouchers are non-transferable, meaning they cannot be given to someone else to use. The vouchers have no cash value outside of your ability to assign them to a candidate.

What if I lose my Democracy Vouchers?

You can get your vouchers replaced! Simply go to http://www.seattle.gov/democracyvoucher/i-am-a-seattle-resident/voucher-replacement on the Democracy Vouchers website to request a replacement.

I was planning to donate anyway. Does this limit the maximum contribution I can donate to a candidate?

Individual donor contribution limits still apply. There is a $300 limit for contributions made by individuals toward candidates running for city council or city attorney, not including funds given through the Democracy Vouchers Program. However, Democracy Vouchers do count toward the $550 contribution limit towards mayoral campaigns.

Democracy Vouchers are an opportunity to support the candidates of your choosing! For more information, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/democracyvoucher. If you have any further questions, please feel free to email [email protected] or call (206)-727-8855; they are there to help!

Note: If you’d like to help spread the word about Democracy Vouchers, you can visit APACEvotes on Facebook or Instagram for upcoming Text Banks and outreach events. We appreciate your support!!

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