Seattle voters will cast their votes on Honest Elections Seattle’s Initiative 122 in November. The initiative proposes to lower campaign contribution limits in Seattle and create a voucher program that allows every Seattle voter to donate $100 to city candidates.
The initiative allows Seattle candidates to opt into a system where voters can give $100 (a.k.a. “Democracy Vouchers”) to donate to candidates of their choosing. Another property tax hike would fund the $100 vouchers. In words, homeowners will fund vouchers for other to give to candidates of their choosing. The initiative is estimated to cost $30 million over a 10-year period.
Proponents of the initiative claim that it would take $3 million to fund the initiative. But, considering there are 415,000 Seattle voters, some skeptics question why the projected cost is so low. Publicola asks, “Wouldn’t it be more like $41 million?”
The Sightline Institute, however, insists that—based on turnout rates—not every voter will use their voucher. Publicola,
“Additionally, vouchers can only go to a limited pool of candidates—those who agree to spending limits. Not only does that winnow down the use of vouchers even more, but it also puts a cap on the fundraising itself.”
Of course, Sightline’s assurances should be taken with a grain of salt. Sightline is being paid to promote I-122.
What Sightline’s explanation fails to address is the inevitability that voters (who will have the opportunity to spend other people’s money, not their own) will come under pressure from candidates, unions and other special interest groups to spend the vouchers that don’t cost them anything. Making the foreseeable problem worse, the initiative contains a loophole for labor unions. Large special interest groups are free to bundle the “Democracy Vouchers” from members and direct the large contribution to their preferred candidate.
In other words, as Shift pointed out, I-122 backers like the Sightline Institute and others are peddling a snake-oil form of “democracy” meant to further empower the far left.