Webinar Notes: Democracy Voucher

Webinar Notes Seattle Democracy Vouchers

 

Webinar Focus (0:20)

  • Citizen engagement through Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program
  • Allowing public financing of campaigns for candidates seeking local office
  • Goals of the program
  • Citizens outreach done
  • Solutions provided to support the Democracy Voucher initiative

 

Resource Speakers (01:48)

  • Grant McLaron

    • 20 years of CRM consulting experience.
    • A thought leader in the public sector space working across various government organizations.
  • Rene LeBeau

    • Has 17 years of election administration experience in state, county, and local levels.
    • Specializes in compliance, implementation, and innovation of the election process.
    • Implemented the Democracy Voucher Program in Seattle.

      • Tracking usage and allocation of the vouchers
      • Educating the public
      • Promoting participation in the campaigns
  • Julie Light (?)

    • Senior IT Project Manager, City of Seattle IT

 

The Justice Clearinghouse (03:15)

  • Peer-to-peer educational program for justice professionals
  • Year-round virtual conference on justice-related topics
  • Events are free-to-attend, with subscribers having 24/7 access to recorded webinars.
  • Attendees are eligible for certifications which may be used for continuing education credits.
  • Interactive 60-minute webinars with quick polls, Q&A, and feedback survey

 

Overview (05:33)

  • City of Seattle

    • Population: 700,000+
    • Voter Population: 480,000+
    • Elected Officials

      • Mayor
      • City Attorney
      • Chief City Council
      • City Council District Positions
  • Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission

    • 7 members

      • 3 appointed by the mayor
      • 3 appointed by the city council
      • 1 appointed by those appointees
    • Purpose

      • Interprets and applies codes for ethics
      • Reports and audits campaign finances
      • Measures budget

 

Honest Elections Seattle Initiative 122 (06:55)

  • November 2015 General Election

    • Seattle will become the first place in the US to try taxpayer-funded democracy vouchers

      • 420,000 voters

        • Yes – 63%
        • No – 37%
  • What the Initiative Change?

    • Limits contributions from city contractors and their PACs
    • Limits contributions from those who hire lobbyists
    • Requires signature gatherers to disclose if they are paid
    • Bars certain former city officials from lobbying for three years
    • Creates Democracy Vouchers Program
    • Lowered the amount an organization or individual can contribute

      • Individual Contribution Limits

        • Non-Program Candidate

          • City Council $500
          • City Attorney $500
          • Mayor $500 (beginning 2021)
        • Democracy Voucher Candidate

          • City Council $250
          • City Attorney $250
          • Mayor $500 (beginning 2021)
  • Goals

    • Increase participation
    • More interaction
    • More options for candidates

      • Opportunity for residents to run for office by providing funding for campaign mechanisms
  • Qualifying for Vouchers

    • Program is optional

      • Candidates must apply and qualify

        • Get specific number of residents to contribute $10 to that candidate
        • The staff verifies that the monetary contributions came from residents/specific individuals
      • Candidates must follow strict filing and reporting requirements
      • Candidates must adhere to contribution and spending limits
      • Candidates agree to:

        • Smaller maximum contribution limits from individuals
        • Campaign spending limits

          • Established by considering the historical spending per position
        • Participate in at least 3 public events in primary and general
  • 2017 Candidates

    • Out of 17 candidates running for the primary, 13 signed up to the program
    • After the primary, 5 out of the 6 qualified candidates were in the voucher program

 

The Democracy Vouchers (12:29)

  • Mailed out over 500,000 Democracy Voucher packets
  • They can support participating candidates, or fund your own campaign
  •  Everyone gets 4 Democracy Vouchers valued at $25 each

    • Barcodes at the back of the voucher help them track and account for the voucher
  •  Must be a Seattle resident, at least 18, AND either:

    •  A U.S. citizen
    • A U.S. national, or
    • A lawful permanent resident (“green card holder”)
  • How does it work?

    • Democracy vouchers are mailed early

      • Ensures candidates get enough time to build a competitive campaign
    • Program funded by a $3-million per year voter-approved property tax
    • Residents must register to vote or fill out an application to receive vouchers

      • For those who registered/applied later than the scheduled mailing, their vouchers will be emailed after application/registration.
    • Assign your voucher to a qualified candidate

      • 11 months to use to vouchers
      • Resident can utilize the voucher whichever way they want to
    • Return vouchers

      • To the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission Office

        • Via post (one free return postage)
        • Via email – with photo of the voucher
      • Candidate Campaign

        • Volunteers
        • Door to door
    • SEEC verifies the vouchers
    • The money will be released to the candidate campaigns.
    • For transparency, residents can check if their vouchers were used and allocated to the correct candidate accordingly online.
  • Replacement Voucher Options

    • Can be requested:

      • By phone
      • By email
      • Campaign Forms
      • On the web

 

2017 Election Year Recap (20:14)

  • The program was open to City Attorney and City Council candidates

    • Program will expand to include the Mayor’s race in 2021
  • Democracy Voucher Program opened to candidate qualifications in July 2016
  • $3,000,000 in Democracy Voucher funds were set aside for campaigns
  • Participation

    • Heat Map

      • April 2017 – in areas where there are lots of candidate activity
      • November 2017 – from all over the city
      • Resident participation heat map was used to plan outreach
    • Democracy Vouchers Returned

      • Unique Participants – 18,155
      • Total Vouchers – 68,261
    • Return Methods

      • Mail – 76%
      • Campaign – 21%
      • Other – 3%

        • Email
        • Customer Service
        • In person
    • Redeemed

      • 44,515
      • $1,112,875 distributed to campaigns
  • Election Results

    • 311% increase in individual contributors for the City Council Position 8
    • 301% increase in individual contributors for the City Council Position 9
  • Communication and Outreach

    • Advisory Committee

      • Formed in 2016
      • Role

        • Advises on outreach and communication
        • Recommends ways for diverse community groups to access and participate
        • Ensures the intent of the initiative is met
        • Program evaluation criteria

          • Talk to stakeholder groups on what worked, what must be improved, etc.
    • Website and Social Media

      • Website

        • Up and running by late 2016
        • Available in multiple languages
      • Facebook presence
    • Mid-Year Media – Key Messages

      • The final list of candidates is now available

        • Deadline was provided if candidates were going to participate in the Democracy Vouchers
      • How to request replacement vouchers or request vouchers in a preferred language
      • Seattle residents can still apply to the program

 

IT Solution and Oversight Security (27:40)

  • Work started March of 2016
  • Initial rollout

    • Paper vouchers
  • Finding a software solution

    • First program of this type in the country
    • Looked at Election Software Vendors
    • Decided to look at Microsoft Dynamics
  • Microsoft Dynamics as CRM solutions
  • Adoxio Business Solutions as Development Partner

    • Came onboard late July 2016 to early August 2016
  • The team

    • Business Analysts
    • IT Specialists
    • Adoxio Project Manager
    • Adoxio Business Analyst
  • The System

    • Participants

      • Registered voters’ data/information

        • King County as pilot database
    • SEEC/Democracy Voucher System

      • Invoicing

        • Payment Details
      • Print File
      • Reporting

 

What’s Next: 2019 (32:50)

  • All district-based council positions will be on the ballot
  • Stakeholder feedback
  • Process improvements

    • For the residents
    • For the candidates
    • For the SEEC
  • Online Democracy Vouchers

    • An option for the residents

 

Recap (34:59)

  • Program’s success measured with

    • The accuracy of the system tracing the dollars and the residents.
    • Increase of contributors in various demographic segments
  • Expectations for the future

    • More candidates to use the platform

      • Promotion
      • Education
    • Deeper analysis of the contributors
    • Online voucher usage to engage more residents
  • Challenges

    • Conducting focus group discussions to get baseline understanding of what people know about campaign financing, democracy vouchers, and the political process
    • Logistics of rolling out the program
  • Raising Awareness and Communicating

    • Mailing
    • Local Media

      • Print
      • Radio
      • Advertisements
      • PSA
    • Social Media

      • Facebook
      • Twitter
    • 2 PR Specialists
Additional Resources
9 months ago
How Seattle’s “Democracy Vouchers” Inspired Citizen Engagement
Actively participating in the electoral and general political process is one way to safeguard our […]
9 months ago
Implementing Seattle’s Democracy Vouchers Project: An Interview with Rene LeBeau
2017 marked an innovative new program for Seattle elections: the notion of a "Democracy Vouc […]
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