The concept of Democracy Dollars is simple but powerful - every registered voter gets four Democracy Dollar Certificates of $25 and can use those certificates as contributions to city council and mayoral candidates.
While $100 may seem insignificant, if you multiply it by the thousands of registered voters in Austin who currently don't - or can't - give contributions to candidates now, the potential impact is staggering.
Currently, 71% of all contributions to candidates come from only 10 of Austin's wealthiest zip codes. And those 10 zip codes represent just a quarter of our total population.
Why is that important? Because policy bends in the direction of those who fund campaigns.
When candidates are required to devote huge amounts of time to fundraising from wealthy donors, who don't represent the diversity of the communities they're striving to represent, they often miss out on hearing the concerns of the everyday residents.
The Democracy Dollar program makes everyone a potential donor and gives candidates an incentive for spending more time talking to everyday residents and less time calling wealthy potential donors.
“Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program is achieving its intended goals by generating historic numbers of new and small donors, diversifying the makeup of campaign supporters to better reflect the people of Seattle, and limiting the reliance on big money in local elections.”
- Post-Election Report by Every Voice & Win Win Network
This program was pioneered in Seattle in 2017 and the results were truly amazing. Whereas their campaigns had historically been disproportionally funded by wealthy, predominantly anglo donors, this program resulted in a donor universe that better reflected the city's population - bringing in more young people, women, people of color and less affluent residents.
Besides empowering those communities, the program also changes the dynamics of who can run for office and win. It empowers candidates who might be superbly qualified in every way - but lack access to personal wealth or a network of rich friends.
Under this program, a candidate with strong community ties - but no access to wealth - can still run a viable campaign and win.