Fair elections on the November ballot
By Mike Andrew
On November 5, Seattle voters will have the opportunity to approve fair elections free of the influence of big money.
Seattle Proposition 1 would create a system of publically financed City Council elections. Proposition 1 is a responsible, common sense reform that restores Seattle’s tradition of fair election laws—now, when we need it most.
Here’s how it would work:
- Candidates who raise 600 individual contributions of at least $10 can opt into the program.
- Contributions up to $50 to qualifying candidates are matched 6 public dollars for every individual dollar, up to $210,000.
- Participating candidates may only spend $140,000 in the primary and $245,000 overall, except when an opponent spends more.
- Approval authorizes six years of additional property taxes, with $2,000,000 (less than two cents per $1000 of assessed value) collected in 2014.
“Back when Seattle had public campaigns we had a more diverse and representative city council,” says Alice Woldt, executive director at Washington Public Campaigns,and PSARA member, “and races that were more fair and provided equal opportunity for all. I’m confident we have a proposal in place to increase the number of female and minority candidates running for City Council and one that will strengthen our democracy.”
Under the existing system, candidates spend a lot of time raising a lot of money from relatively few people and businesses. In 2011, the average contribution was $224 and 68% of the contributions were greater than $100.
The cost of running for office discourages good people with good ideas from running. In 2011, winning candidates for Seattle City Council raised an average of $275,000 – a $100,000 increase from 2009.
With public financing, candidates will have time for regular voters because they aren’t chasing big contributions, and elected officials work for ALL the people, not just their biggest contributors.
Public financing also makes elected office more accessible to everyone, allowing a greater diversity of people with a wider range of ideas to run for office and win.
New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and many other cities have robust public financing systems. Maine, Arizona, and Connecticut have all passed systems of public financing for legislators and state officeholders. North Carolina and New Mexico use public financing for judicial elections.
Participation in the Maine system reached a high of 87% in the 2006 legislative election. Voter participation has increased in Arizona, especially among minority communities. Many studies document how public financing increases minority participation in the electoral system.
Seattle Proposition 1 is endorsed by PSARA, both candidates for Mayor of Seattle – incumbent Mike McGinn and Sen. Ed Murray – and all current members of the City Council, except Sally Bagshaw.
It’s also backed by the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, SEIU Washington State Council, and a number of individual unions and community organizations.
For more information on Seattle Proposition1, readers can visit www. fairelectionsseattle.com