A view of South Seattle from Columbia Tower. • Photo by Atomic Taco
A view of South Seattle from Columbia Tower. • Photo by Atomic Taco

It’s time for immigrant and refugee communities to have real influence on candidates for office, without having our concerns drowned out by wealthy donors.

Communities of color and immigrant and refugee communities in Seattle are grappling with a range of tough issues: lack of affordable housing, gridlocked traffic, and not enough public transportation. Human service programs can’t keep up with need, training, and education programs struggle to address language and other barriers faced by recent immigrants and their families.

Everyone deserves a voice in the policy discussions that affect their communities and neighborhoods—but Seattle’s most diverse neighborhoods have the least political power. That influence is reserved for the wealthy. Those of us working just to cover our rent, food, transportation, health, and child care costs have nothing left over to wager on political candidates.

How would our communities benefit if we had a stronger voice in Seattle government and politics? What changes would we see if we elect leaders to the city council who know us, who share our community values and share our concerns?

According to new research by the Alliance for a Just Society, 78 percent of Seattle’s Asian Pacific Islander Americans population live in communities with the least political voice—as measured by campaign donations. They include Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, and the International District.

Initiative 122 will level the playing field by giving more than 67,000 people in Seattle’s APIA community a bigger voice in city politics.

I-122 gives every Seattle resident with the right to donate, including legal permanent residents, the ability to receive four $25 vouchers to contribute to candidates they support.

The Honest Elections initiative encourages Seattle candidates to talk to people—everyone in our neighborhoods—instead of talking to big money.

The initiative also lowers the cap on individual donations to candidates, further amplifying the voice of ordinary people.

Everyone in Seattle has a right to participate in electing leaders who make our laws and policies. And today, even as we urge our communities to naturalize, register to vote and vote, we need to restore confidence that candidates who choose to run for office will represent all of us.

Research by the Center for Working Families shows that a more balanced system for campaign donations has significant benefits for communities and candidates of color—especially those who run from low-income districts.

How will having a more powerful voice in city elections help our community and neighborhoods? There’s one way to find out. Vote yes on I-122.

More information is available at honestelectionsseattle.org/learn-more/.

Rich Stolz is the chief executive officer of OneAmerica Votes. OneAmerica Votes promotes democracy and builds power in immigrant and refugee communities through advocacy, civic engagement and leadership development.

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