Seattle-area unions want to distribute replacement ‘democracy vouchers’ for fall campaigns

Some local unions are asking to be allowed to distribute replacement “democracy vouchers” to Seattle voters, such as their members.

Three unions and a labor-backed advocacy group are asking for permission to distribute replacement “democracy vouchers” in Seattle political races.

The organizations say they want to help boost participation in the city’s first-in-the-nation program, which gives each registered voter $100 in taxpayer-funded vouchers to donate to the campaigns of the candidate or candidates they like best.

Slated for consideration Wednesday by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, the request marks the latest in a series of questions about how to run the novel program and could change a hotly contested City Council contest.

The guidelines are mostly laid out in Initiative 122, which voters passed in 2015, authorizing a 10-year, $30 million property-tax levy to pay for the vouchers.

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Only candidates for council and city attorney — not mayor — are part of the program this year. Voters submit the vouchers to the commission either directly or via the campaigns.

But the commission has needed to work out some program details on the fly.

For example, many voters promptly threw out or lost the vouchers they were mailed back in January. So the commission is offering replacements. Voters can request them by phone, by completing an online form, or by sending an email.

The commission vets the requests, then mails or emails the replacement vouchers.

To make things easier, the commission this spring created a single document that allows campaigns to both provide voters with replacement vouchers and collect them.

A voter provides his or her personal information, and a campaign representative signs the document as well. Then the campaign submits it to the commission.

Letting candidates replace vouchers was a good move, according to SEIU 1199NW, SEIU 775, UFCW 21 — union locals that represent hospital workers, nursing-home and home-health workers and supermarket workers, respectively.

But the unions, and advocacy group Working Washington, now also want to play a role. They want permission to hand out, though not collect, replacement vouchers.

“The current process disproportionately makes it harder for low-income populations to participate,” they wrote to the commission Aug. 30.

There’s no chance of third-party organizations being…

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