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What’s a democracy voucher anyway?

Democracy voucher lawsuit claims program violates First Amendment (File, MyNorthwest)

We’ve covered democracy vouchers, repeatedly.

But it turns out people are still confused about the citywide program.

At least that was the case with Danny O’Neil, host at 710 ESPN Seattle and Seattle resident who unearthed his democracy vouchers somewhere in his backlog of mail and had no idea what to do with them before consulting reporter Mike Lewis. Their email chain follows:

DANNY: Dude. Remember a few weeks ago when you were on the “Tom and Curley Show” talking about some certificates that allow you to vouch for democracy? Well, in sorting/sifting/shredding my past six months worth of mail, I came across some. What the hell are these things, Mike?

MIKE: Congratulations. You found your Democracy Vouchers, Danny. They are unique to Seattle. As a homeowner, you bought ‘em with a 2015 property tax hike. You get four worth $25 dollars each.

DANNY: Can I put them toward the construction of a new arena to host concerts and some type of professional athletics?

MIKE: Sorry, no. They are not for sale, trade or stadium naming rights. For this election, you can send your vouchers to candidates from one of three races in Seattle: city attorney or the two at-large city council seats. In subsequent elections, you will be able to use the vouchers on the mayor’s race and other council seats. The candidates, if they qualify, then can cash in the vouchers for actual campaign cash that came from the new property tax.

DANNY: So it’s like the dole for politicians?

MIKE: In a way. The idea behind the vouchers is to take big money out of politics by … um … well … mostly changing the source and portion-size of that big money. Think of it like ice cream. If a candidate scarfs down ice cream in giant dollops he receives mostly from Haagen-Dazs, he gets a brain freeze, fat and he owes Haagen-Dazs favors for that binge.

But if he eats ice cream with tiny individual teaspoons from the freezers of every homeowner in Seattle, he skips the brain freeze and obligations to Haagen-Dazs. Plus, if everyone gives only a teaspoon, who will miss it?

DANNY: What if I want all of my ice cream for myself?

MIKE: Tough luck. You own a home in Seattle, and 63 percent of voters approved the property tax hike to pay for Democracy Vouchers. And while they might admit that it’s odd to find City Attorney Pete Holmes in the kitchen holding a spoon, they say it’s better to have him in voters’ houses than neck-deep in Caramel Cone at the Haagen-Dazs factory.

DANNY: Hmmm. Is it just a coincidence that the city attorney, who advocated the legalization of pot, is hypothetically in my kitchen, head in the freezer, complaining that I don’t have Caramel Cone, just Chocolate Peanut Butter? I’ll assume that it is.

So can I donate against a specific candidate? I’m thinking of a certain socialist who’s name starts with a ‘K’ and ends with a ‘shama Sawant.”

MIKE: Kind of. The voucher program has not considered topically targeted donations such as, “the candidate who most irritates the mayor” or “anyone who actually owns a business in this town” or “best beard in the field.” But if you can figure out which candidate fits the bill, have at it. But remember, the candidate has to be eligible for vouchers to cash them in. And that “certain socialist who’s name starts with a ‘K’ and ends with a ‘shama Sawant” isn’t up for re-election this year.

She will be in two years. So don’t lose your vouchers again.

DANNY: Cool. I’ll put them back in my mail pile for safe-keeping while scanning for any candidate who will follow Hawaii’s lead and advocate a bill to keep these (gosh) (darn) pedestrians from staring at their phones while walking in Seattle (specifically in South Lake Union).

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