The Sunday Observer: California group spends big to change Seattle elections
How approval voting initiative might have changed last year's mayoral race
A California-based group has poured $160,000 into a campaign to aggressively revamp Seattle’s primary election system. That’s likely enough to collect the signatures necessary to put “approval voting” before Seattle voters later this year.
Under that system, voters could choose as many candidates as they like on the primary ballot instead of just one. Daniel Beekman of The Seattle Times had a piece on the idea back in November, but that was before Seattle Approves, the committee promoting the measure, reported raising nearly $200,000 in December.
Getting an initiative on the ballot in Seattle means collecting more than 26,000 signatures in 180 days. Properly spent, $200K is definitely enough money. For context, the 2013 campaign to shift the Seattle City Council from 9 at-large members elected by the entire city to 2 at-large members and 7 members representing districts spent less than $300,000 on the entire campaign.
Here’s why you should care about this: In addition to being a significant shift in elections policy, it’s also an illustration of the power of outside money to influence local politics via the initiative process. We’ve seen that multiple times in recent years both at the state and local level, including the $20 million Big Soda spent to block further soda taxes in 2018, the flood of outside money that helped pass Seattle’s democracy voucher system in 2015, and Uber and Lyft’s aggressive move to pave over the Seattle City Council in 2014.1
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