November 6, 2017

Seattle decides to continue to violate the First Amendment

By Seattle decides to continue to violate the First Amendment

In a bitterly disappointing decision, Judge Beth Andrus granted Seattle’s motion to dismiss our clients’ First Amendment challenge to the city’s democracy-voucher program. Judge Andrus held that forcing property owners to pay for private residents’ campaign contributions does not burden property owners’ speech rights.

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.

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. Candidates must abide by spending limits, among other mandates, to be eligible. The program will eventually be extended to the mayor’s race. Funding comes from a new property tax levied specifically for this program.

In this week’s episode of PLF’s Courting Liberty podcast, hear from case attorney Ethan Blevins about this decision and how First Amendment rights include both the right to speak and the right not to speak.

learn more about

Elster v. City of Seattle, Washington

Representing Seattle residents and property owners, PLF sued to overturn Seattle’s ordinance mandating public campaign financing. Under the city’s “democracy voucher” program, each Seattle resident receives four $25 vouchers to support eligible candidates for local political office. The money to fund the voucher program is taken from the city’s property owners via a dedicated levy. The lawsuit argues that these compelled subsidies violate the First Amendment right to refrain from speaking – or funding the speech of another person.

Read more

What to read next