More than 326,000 signatures have been turned in to the Washington secretary of state’s office in support of the measure creating a voucher system that would give voters three $50 “democracy credits” that they can use in state races every two years.
OLYMPIA — More than 326,000 signatures have been turned in to the Washington secretary of state’s office in support of a proposed ballot measure that would make a series of campaign-finance changes, including the creation of a publicly funded voucher system for contributions.
Supporters of Initiative 1464 called it a “comprehensive initiative.”
“It reforms ethics and campaign finance laws in Washington to help demand more accountability,” said campaign spokesman Peter McCollum.
I-1464 seeks to do several things, including creating a voucher system that would give voters three $50 “democracy credits” that they can use in state races every two years. To pay for the statewide system, I-1464 would repeal the nonresident sales-tax exemption for residents of sales-tax-free states like Oregon who shop in Washington.
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To be eligible to redeem the vouchers, participating candidates would have to pledge to limit the size of donations they accept and agree to spending limits and private contribution limits.
Seattle voters passed a similar citywide measure, Initiative 122, last year — the first place in the country to approve so-called “democracy vouchers.” In doing so, voters agreed to raise taxes by $3 million a year to get four $25 vouchers they can sign over to candidates for mayor, City Council or city attorney, starting with the council and city attorney elections next year.
I-1464 would also impose tougher donor-disclosure requirements on political advertisements and limit the amount of money that contractors and lobbyists can contribute to candidates. It also would impose a three-year waiting period before former elected officials and senior staff can lobby their previous employers and colleagues.
Integrity Washington, the campaign in support of the measure, has raised more than $1.5 million, including $375,000 from Washington, D.C.-based Every Voice, which supported I-122 in Seattle last year. McCollum said that the campaign spent about $1 million on signature gathering.
The campaign committee includes a Spokane City Council president, a vice president of the League of Women Voters of Washington and a co-chair of the Seattle Tea Party Patriots.
“People from all different political spectrums see the influence of money in politics as a problem,” said Kathy Sakahara, of the League of Women Voters of Washington. “One thing that just about everyone agrees on is that our democracy should be run by the people, not just by the rich people, not just by the corporations.”
The Association of Washington Business has come out against the measure.
Bob Battles, general counsel and director of government affairs for employment law at the business association, said that they have several concerns with the measure, including the repeal of the nonresident sales-tax exemption.
“That will hurt our border businesses,” he said. “There’s real business to be lost.”
Battles also said the campaign-finance vouchers will have a limited benefit because rich candidates can choose to not participate and still privately fund their campaigns.
“It doesn’t really level the playing field because someone who wants to self-fund will still self-fund,” he said.
Also Friday, more than 320,000 signatures for Initiative 1501 were turned in to the secretary of state’s office. That measure increases penalties for criminal identity theft and consumer fraud targeting seniors and vulnerable people.
An initiative requires at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the secretary of state’s office suggests at least 325,000 in case of any duplicate or invalid signatures. The signature-validation process could take a few weeks, according to the secretary of state’s office.