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Can “democratic dollars” protect real dollars from politics?


Teresa Mosqueda used to spend her days asking people to run for office. The union leader, a third-generation Mexican-American in Seattle, thought the best way to deal with working families was to encourage former acquaintances to get involved in politics. But when people ask him to run, Mosqueda refuses, citing an obstacle that many Americans face: he could not.

This changed when he learned about democratic vouchers—a tax-paying program sends Seattle residents $ 25 to give to those who need it. This means that more people can contribute to local campaigns and more people, like Mosqueda, can run.

After the 2015 vote, Seattle’s voucher program was the first in the country. Asking for large donations is difficult for many voters, says Mosqueda, who is now a member of the city council: “I don’t know people with $ 5,000 to donate.” Now vouchers mean that voters should not rely on donors with bags so deep. He said: “You don’t want rich companies or people to respect you.

As two previous elections in Seattle show, the program has not stopped the attraction of those who give in full, and it did not change much with Seattle’s allies, who came mainly from older whites. But a study published in 2019 in Electoral Law indicates that certainly weakened the skins; of the voters who cast their ballots in Seattle in 2017 and 2019, Voucher users were a little heavier than their payers.

Now, as Seattle launches democratic vouchers for their mayor, the city wants to boost the power of big donors (Amazon provided $ 350,000 to help select the final mayor) by attracting smaller ones. And while other municipalities, such as new York and Washington, DC, is trying to undermine economic democracy by comparing and increasing small donations, critics say the system is virtually nonexistent. “You have to have your own money to participate,” said Brian McCabe, one of the researchers who led the 2019 study.

In fact, perhaps the biggest success of the program, according to McCabe and coauthor Jen Heerwig, is the sheer number of people who were attracted to it. About 8% of Seattle’s nominations went to the polls in 2019, compared with only 1.3% in 2015. This makes Seattle a world leader in “multi-currency” operations, says McCabe.

“They feel that the system does not work the way the people want and that ordinary people – whether advanced, independent, inconsistent – are not represented.”

A recent survey of more than 1,000 voters conducted by HarrisX told The Hill reporters that 57% believe that US politics only works for those who have money and power. As Seattle seeks to directly promote the campaigns of the disadvantaged, many US cities are lamenting whether democracies are the answer to this problem.

Andrew Allison, founder of the Austinites for Progressive Reform political committee in Texas, recently collected the 20,000 signatures required to produce a voting card in May.

“In Austin, about 70% of donations come from just three of our 10 states,” says Allison. “And the number of donors cannot be compared to the idea of ​​one person, one vote.”


In 2019, four of the nine elected councilors in Seattle said they would not be able to run without democratic voting, according to a 2020 report from BERK Consulting. This year, of the 12 mayoral nominees confirmed earlier in April, eight are receiving vouchers, including Colleen Echohawk.

Echohawk, who will be the city’s first Indian mayor, states: “I come from a neighborhood where politics are rarely involved. “If I could donate, it might be like $ 10.”

The Echohawk is best known for the democratic vote on its page and Instagram. But he says most of his followers “don’t know what they are like.”

This can be a major flaw in the program; in 2019, less than 40,000 Seattle residents — about 5% of the population — used their vouchers. Many seem to be mistaken for unsolicited letters. Even Seattle residents can choose vouchers approx or apply instead of the internet, many are unaware that the program exists. And even democratic vouchers wonder why all Seattle landowners have to pay — even if only $ 8 a year — a program that very few use.

“If you still have high PACs and private funds available to the electorate, I don’t think it’s a good way to make money politically,” said Paul Gessing, CEO of the Rio Grande Foundation, a former rejoiced while the ideas of democratic coaches were defeat in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2019.

In 2017, the Pacific Legal Foundation, a law firm, filed a lawsuit against Seattle, alleging that democracies violated his right to freedom of expression by paying taxes to companies that he did not support. But the country’s highest court upheld the decision.

However, most Americans love the rules they would like borderline political finance, according to the 2018 Pew Report.

Jack Noland, a research supervisor at RepresentUs, a nonprofit fundraiser, has outlined a number of measures that can help in this regard, including fraud to prevent political corruption. But he said the voucher program wanted to change all political methods, not just the results, by encouraging candidates to preach in various regions.

As a confirmation of the voucher program “great interest,” he points to Law of the People recently issued by the US Embassy. It includes a program that can democratically elected voting vouchers in three states, to be nominated by the Federal Election Commission. “All opposition groups, however, feel that the system is not working as they should and that ordinary people – whether advanced, independent, carefree – are not represented,” Noland said.

Julia Hotz is a journalist who explains what works to address the financial crisis.


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