Democracy Vouchers are a tool for Social Change

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Democracy Vouchers are a tool for Social Change

By Laurie Rocello Torres

On January 3, 2017 you might have noticed an envelope that looked like this:

These are democracy vouchers that are being distributed automatically to registered voters in Seattle as part of the Democracy Voucher program that was implemented following the Honest Elections campaign win in 2015. This is the first publicly financed campaign program in the nation to help get big money out of elections and mitigate barriers to participating in democracy.  Permanent residents, US Citizens and US Nationals can apply to receive democracy vouchers and participate in the Democracy Voucher program.  

Why Does this Matter?

If we believe in building a better world where people are able to have all their basic needs met regardless of race, age, ability, gender, sexuality, education, class, or citizenship status we need to seriously consider our strategy, tools, and tactics to create that world. Democracy vouchers are a new tool to add to our tool box regardless of if your preferred approach to affecting change is to work within our existing system or outside of it.

In a time where our president elect is a representative of the white, straight, cis, male elite who benefits from and upholds white supremacy, voting has become a sore point. Many people are disillusioned with voting because our current system impels us to vote for candidates who do not represent our communities, let alone are committed to address our issues and needs. While understandable, it does not change how voting is necessary for harm reduction. But the question that remains for many folks is how can harm reduction happen when some folks can’t even access voting?

Democracy vouchers create the conditions for candidates from marginalized communities to run for office without worrying about having to fundraise. When we remove barriers to running for office, we help create conditions to build community power by supporting candidates who are from marginalized communities.

Democracy vouchers also help remove barriers for folks who are not eligible to vote. The qualifications for getting them are being 18 years of age or older, and a legal resident of Seattle. So green card holders who are not citizens but are still impacted by policies can now use their vouchers to support a candidate who is going to fight for their rights too, even if they cannot vote in favor or opposition of policies that impact them. As far as City politics goes, this is a big step in shifting the electoral process to a more equitable system.

In the time of Trump (there, I said it), it is imperative that we use any and all strategies and tactics that center on folks who are most impacted by the systems of white supremacy and patriarchy that ultimately favor and privilege the wealthy, able bodied, elite. By all means continue to have deep conversations with your family to understand why they identify as conservative, continue to provide direly needed housing, health, and employment services, and continue to do work that facilitates deep healing and creates liberatory alternatives to the oppressive systems we exist in today. AND do what you can to mitigate the impact of a system that wasn’t designed for LGBTQ, brown, working class, disabled folks to exist in anyway. Democracy vouchers are one tool of many to support the leadership of our communities and provide an avenue for people who otherwise are barred from participating in democracy in this country to voice their concerns and put their money where their values are.
If you want to know more about democracy vouchers, or get involved with doing outreach to let folks know what they are so they can use them effectively, contact to get more information about LGBTQ Allyship’s Democracy Justice Committee and get involved.


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