For those of you who are political junkies, it would not be far-fetched to say that Washington State is one of the most Progressive states in the nation with California and the state of Illinois tied for second.
Further proof of this was shown on Wednesday, June 28th when a lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court by Pacific Legal Foundation. The case is regarding two Seattle property owners who are being forced to pay a “voucher tax and underwrite donations to politicians whether they support them or not.” The two being represented are Mark Elster and Sarah Pynchon, who both own property in Seattle and are therefore subject to the so-called democracy voucher levy. According to a press release by Pacific Legal Foundation, “both of them object to paying for the political contributions of others, and to funding candidates against their will.”
Mark Elster says “The democracy voucher program puts other people’s political beliefs into my mouth, so to speak. It does so by taking my money, through taxes, and bestowing it on others so they can make contributions to candidates who might disagree with me diametrically.” Elster thinks “That’s wrong, and it’s unconstitutional.”
Ms. Pynchon rents out a single-family home that she owns in Seattle while her main residence is outside of the city which means that even while she is helping to pay for the program, she is not eligible to receive democracy vouchers herself. Pynchon says “I am concerned about a tax on homeowners that is used to fund candidates in elections I cannot participate in, as I do not live in the City of Seattle,” and that it would “put financial burdens on outnumbered property owners;” which she says is “a form of taxation without representation.”
According to PLF “Seattle’s new “democracy voucher” program flouts the First Amendment by forcing property owners, through a new tax, to subsidize other people’s political campaign donations and fund candidates not of their choosing.”
The program will eventually be extended to the mayor’s race. Major funding comes from a new property tax levied on local home owners in Seattle specifically for this program.
Ethan Blevins who is representing the two property owners in this case says, “most of the vouchers that have been donated as of the June 7 reporting went to a tenant activist Jon Grant, an advocate for collective bargaining for renters,” and that “rental property owners are being forced to bankroll a politician who is adverse to their rights and their interests.” Blevins also says it is an “enrichment tax because it compels property owners to help fill candidates’ coffers” which he says is “a classic case of compelled speech,” and “a clear-cut violation of the First Amendment.”
Seattle’s voucher program was enacted in 2015 as Initiative 122. The program was then put into law in 2016. During each local election cycle, Seattle residents are each entitled to four $25 vouchers, which they can contribute to candidates for city council and city attorney.
Blevins tells the Miller News Service “That the case will probably not be heard in court until the middle of 2018.” The case file is Elster v. Seattle. More information, including the complaint, backgrounder, video, and an explanatory blog post, may be found on the case page. Click Honest Elections Seattle to see how the program works.
The Miller News Service did contact the City of Seattle District Attorney’s office regarding this case, a communications person told us “That they have not yet received filing regarding the lawsuit,” and “that as soon as they have had a chance to review the lawsuit” the city would be able to comment on the lawsuit. The Miller News Service has also learned that City Attorney Pete Holmes nor any attorney’s under him in the city attorney’s office will not be representing the city regarding this case because they are currently making money from Initiative 122 as it is an election year in Seattle. This means that the case will be forwarded to the Government Affairs Division who will review the case.
Keep reading the Miller News Service for more on this developing story.
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