Frequently Asked Questions




What are Democracy Vouchers?

Democracy Vouchers are certificates that Seattle residents can use to help support their local candidates. Democracy Vouchers can also be used to fund your own campaign.

Will I receive Democracy Vouchers for 2018?
No. Democracy Vouchers are issued in odd-numbered years when Seattle City candidates appear on the ballot.

When is the next City of Seattle election?
The next election is in 2019. The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission will issue new Democracy Vouchers to all registered voters and those who apply.

Which positions will be eligible for Democracy Voucher funding in 2019?
In 2019, the seven city council district positions are eligible for Democracy Voucher funding.

Who can use Democracy Vouchers?

In order to use Democracy Vouchers, you must be:

  • A Seattle resident,
  • At least 18 years of age, and
  • A U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident ("green card holder")

You do not have to be a registered voter to use Democracy Vouchers. If you meet the criteria, you may apply for Democracy Vouchers.


How do I get my Democracy Vouchers?

If you are a registered voter, you will automatically receive your Democracy Vouchers by mail in 2019.

If you are not a registered voter, you may be eligible apply to receive Democracy Vouchers by downloading the application. The application is available in 15 languages.

How is the Democracy Voucher Program funded?

In November 2015, Seattle voters approved a property tax of $3 million per year to fund the program for the next 10 years.

If I do not have a permanent address, can I still participate?

Yes. You may register at an address where you spend a substantial part of your time or have some connection. This could be a previously permanent address, shelter, or similar place.

If you have additional questions about your unique situation, please contact the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission by calling (206) 727-8855 or e-mailing democracyvoucher@seattle.gov.

Can I give my Democracy Voucher to any City Council candidate?

Your 2019 Democracy Vouchers can be given to any participating City Council candidate, including candidates within or outside your council district.

Can I give all my Democracy Vouchers to one candidate?

Vouchers may only be assigned to participating candidates in the Democracy Voucher Program. You can give participating candidates one ($25), two ($50), three ($75), or all four ($100) of your Democracy Vouchers.

How do I return my Democracy Vouchers?

Democracy Vouchers may be returned directly to a candidate's campaign, to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, or dropped-off at one of the designated locations.

Vouchers must have your signature and the candidate's name clearly written to be processed.

When should I use my Democracy Vouchers?

Your vouchers are good from the time you receive them through November 29, 2019. You can use your vouchers all at once or over the course of the year.

Here are a few things to watch for that may affect when you choose to use them:

1. Candidates have until May 31, 2019 to decide to participate in the Democracy Voucher Program.

2. Candidates have spending limits that determine how many vouchers they can redeem.

3. This is not the same as voting. Your candidate needs the funds to run a competitive campaign well before election day.

What does a candidate have to do to "qualify" for the Democracy Voucher Program?

Candidates must "qualify" for the Democracy Voucher Program before they are able to redeem Democracy Vouchers to fund their campaigns. Candidates listed as "pending" are in the process of qualifying.

Candidates must complete a "qualifying process" by collecting a certain number of qualifying signatures and minimum $10 contributions from Seattle residents. City Council District candidates must collect at least 150 qualifying contributions to qualify.

If I assign my vouchers to a candidate who does not complete the qualifying process, what happens to the money?

The money from the Democracy Vouchers will roll over to the next election cycle to fund future races.

What are the spending limits for candidates participating in the program?

Candidates participating in the Democracy Voucher Program must honor the following spending limits for each office. These limits include contributions from Democracy Vouchers and monetary contributions.

A candidate may be released from the spending limit by appealing to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission. If released, the candidate will only receive Democracy Voucher dollars up to the spending limit but will then be able to collect monetary donations beyond that.

Spending Limits for Participating CandidatesCity AttorneyCity Council
At-large
City Council
District
Mayor
(2021)
Campaign Spending Limits (Primary Election Only) $75,000 $150,000 $75,000 $400,000
Combined Campaign Spending Limits for Primary and General Election $150,000 $300,000 $150,000 $800,000

What happens if I do not use my Democracy Vouchers?

If you do not use your Democracy Vouchers, the funds will carry over to the next election cycle to fund the program. The funds do not roll over to the general fund. The Democracy Voucher program will expand to include the Mayor's race in 2021.

What is the maximum contribution I can make to a candidate?

The maximum contribution to a participating candidate is $250 plus $100 in Democracy Vouchers. For candidates not participating in the Democracy Voucher program, the maximum contribution is $500.

If the participating candidate petitions for and is released from the contribution limit, they are then subject to the maximum $500 limit, including the value of any individual's redeemed Democracy Vouchers.

I do not want to use my vouchers. Can I give my Democracy Vouchers to someone else or to an organization to assign for me?

No, Democracy vouchers are assigned to you and only you. Vouchers may not be sold, gifted, or bought. Democracy Vouchers have no cash value and are not assets.

How do I know my Democracy Vouchers are going to my selected candidate?

All voucher assignments are public information. To ensure your vouchers are going to the candidate(s) you selected, visit the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission's program data page.


How will my candidates spend my Democracy Vouchers? What are Democracy Vouchers prohibited from being used for?

Candidates using Democracy Vouchers for their campaign are held to all existing campaign spending laws. Voucher funds can be used for allowable campaign expenses e.g. paying for printing, advertisements, and office space.

Campaign funds may not be used to:

  • Make cash payments;
  • Reimburse contributors for their contributions;
  • Pay the candidate a salary, or pay the candidate's personal expenses;
  • Support the candidate in a campaign for a different office;
  • Make contributions to other candidates or political committees; or,
  • Make payments to family members.