SEATTLE -- Initiative 122, dubbed “Honest Elections” by supporters, is a landmark plan to publicly fund campaigns.
Supporters, who won big on Tuesday, argue it will take big money out of campaigns. But will its complexity cause more problems than it solves? And what about the irony that the effort spent nearly $1.5 million – much of it from outside the state – to get the measure passed?
The plan differs significantly from other cities that have publicly financed elections, where candidates get matching money. This one is a lot different.
Here’s how the 'Honest Elections' system would work in Seattle:
- Every voter gets four $25 “democracy vouchers” to give to the candidates of their choice
- Individuals would be limited to giving only $500 to any mayoral candidate (including vouchers) and $250 to those running for council
- Spending limits: Mayoral candidates couldn’t spend more than $800,000; City Council candidates would be limited to $150,000
- The measure bans contributions from corporations with large city contracts and lobbying efforts
Opponents argue this will be an administrative nightmare and open to abuse, including voters possibly selling vouchers to campaigns. And it might actually increase independent spending, to make up for the new limitations on direct spending. Everyone will be watching for these effects.
Supporters decided on a voucher system because it helps candidates and it gets voters more engaged in the political process.
Backers of this measure clearly have larger ambitions than just Seattle. After their big win this week here, they intend to take this idea to other cities and states across the country.