In 2017, Seattle rolled out “democracy vouchers”—a program through which it would give eligible residents vouchers totaling $100 to donate to the local candidate of their choice. Candidates who opted in to the program had to agree to strict guidelines on how to spend the money they received. The idea behind the pilot was that giving the equivalent of money to constituents who don’t usually have the resources to support their candidates—pensioners and the homeless, for example—would spur greater political participation. And, ideally, it would also help mitigate the vast influence wealthy campaign donors have on local elections.
Now, the idea is picking up speed in other cities, with Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Austin, Texas, planning to put it to vote in ballot initiatives come November.