Socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has raised the most money in this year’s City Council campaigns. In fact, with $362,000 raised so far, Sawant has set a fundraising record. Whatever that may reveal of the state of politics in Seattle, it also raises questions over the true intention of Initiative 122, the so-called “Democracy Voucher” initiative. The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat writes,
“But the reason I bring this up is there’s a Seattle ballot measure, Initiative 122, to levy a $30 million property tax over 10 years to pay for public financing of city campaigns. The premise, quoted from the initiative’s website, is ‘to protect Seattle’s elections from the influence of big money.’
“How much of a big-money problem can we have if a socialist is our all-time top council fundraiser?”
Seattle elections are relatively inexpensive. That’s because there is little to no difference among candidates seeking office—true political competition is non-existent, thus big donors do not have an incentive to pump money into races.
That fact inevitably raises the question of why I-122 backers think their initiative is needed in Seattle. Westneat,
“If there’s not much big money in our elections, why get it out? I asked the Initiative 122 backers: Why here?
“The campaign’s director, Heather Weiner, said it’s to combat voter apathy. The August primary had the lowest voter turnout in decades. Initiative 122 could reverse that, she predicts, as it would give each citizen $100 in taxpayer-financed democracy vouchers that they could donate to candidates.”
Weiner’s explanation does not stand the test of basic reason. Contributing to a political campaign correlates with voting likelihood because, quite obviously, the donor is political active in the first place. No evidence exists that indicates so-called “Democracy Vouchers”—funded by taxpayers—would have a positive impact on voter behavior. In fact, the scheme only invites the possibility of abuse.
The truth is that combating “voter apathy” is not the agenda of I-122 backers. Rather, rich outsiders are pushing I-122 as a test. Seattle is the entry point to try and push a statewide initiative, all with a national agenda in mind. Ironically, that’s the very definition of rich people buying elections… with a long-term outlook twist.
I-122 backers have also revealed another reason why voters should reject the initiative. As Shift reported, I-122 would extend the $100 vouchers to non-citizens legally residing in Seattle. The purpose is to engage Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR’s) in the electoral process, short of voting. Backers admit that they hope the system would open the door to non-citizen voting in Seattle, as local politicians are encouraged to engage with “citizens and noncitizens alike.”