Seattle homeowners filed a lawsuit against local officials Wednesday over the city’s new “democracy voucher” program – a new tax that violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by forcing property owners to subsidize other people’s donations to political campaigns and fund candidates they oppose.
Attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) filed a lawsuit Elster v. Seattle in the King County Superior Court on behalf of two of the thousands of Seattle property owners to challenge the problematic program that compels them to pay the voucher tax and underwrite contributions to politicians in the far-Left-leaning Pacific Northwest city – regardless of whether they support or oppose the candidates.
Seattle’s voucher program – which was enacted in 2015 as Initiative 122 – is the first of its kind in America.
“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,” PLF informed in its press release. “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.”
PLF attorney Ethan Blevins says the new tax flies in the face of democracy and the Constitution.
“The so-called ‘democracy vouchers’ could not be more undemocratic or unconstitutional,” Blevins contended in the press release. “First Amendment rights include both the right to speak and the right not to speak. You can’t be forced to engage in political expression or advocacy that is contrary to your convictions. The voucher program suspends that liberty. It’s about coercion – not free choice. The voucher tax conscripts property owners into footing the bill for other people’s donations. It forces them to fund contributions, candidates and causes they might not favor.”
He stressed that the added property tax homeowners forced to pay ironically makes them financially support a politician who fights to take away their own property rights
“In fact, most of the vouchers that have been donated as of the June 7 reporting went to tenant activist Jon Grant – an advocate for collective bargaining for renters,” Blevins explained. “So, rental property owners are forced to bankroll a politician who is adverse to their rights and their interests.”
With Democrats solidly in place throughout the predominantly blue Pacific Northwest city, the tax works to make sure Leftist policies are enforced – and continue to be enforced – citywide.
“Ironically, because most vouchers are likely to go to candidates with greater name ID, the program could also tend to boost insiders and incumbents – regardless of whether the taxpayers who fund the program support those candidates,” Blevins pointed out. “You could even call it a politicians’ enrichment tax, because it compels property owners to help fill candidates’ coffers. In sum, it amounts to a classic case of compelled speech – a clear-cut violation of the First Amendment.”
Property owners speak out
Represented by PLF in the lawsuit, single-family Seattle homeowner Mark Elster is dead-set against his income paying for others’ political contributions and funding candidates standing on the polar-opposite side of issues that he supports.
“This program is so patently and obviously unfair,” Elster protested. “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. That’s wrong, and it’s unconstitutional.”
PLF’s other client in the suit, Sarah Pynchon, who owns a home that she rents in Seattle – but lives beyond city limits – is not eligible to receive democracy vouchers, but is forced to pay for the program.
“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,” Pynchon expressed in the release. “Further, the program is effectively asking me to fund candidates that I may not agree with. Indeed, as currently structured, the vouchers could be used to elect people who will continue to put financial burdens on outnumbered property owners – a form of taxation without representation.”
PLF President and CEO Steven Anderson is focused on restoring Seattle property owners’ constitutional rights.
“The First Amendment protects many of our basic rights,” Anderson declared. “Whenever government violates these rights – as Seattle is doing here – PLF will lead the battle to vindicate these rights and with them, our individual liberty.”
Not compatible with nation’s highest court
It was argued in PLC’s complaint that forcing property owners to pay for political candidates directly goes against a ruling in the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS).
“[SCOTUS precedent stipulates] a student cannot be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance,” PLC attorneys argued in their complaint, comparing it to being forced to pay for political campaigns – according to WND.
SCOTUS judges explained the reasoning behind its precedent.
“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith herein,” the highest court commented, reported WND.
PLC extrapolated on SCOTUS precedent to show that it also applies to its Seattle case.
“[The right against compelled speech] also includes a right to refrain from financially supporting speech,” the attorneys contended.
The case will have long-term effects on Seattle residents and the city’s political climate.
“The law allows Seattle to collect $3 million per year for 10 years from taxpayers and give it away, the complaint notes,” WND’s Bob Unruh recounted. “The complaint seeks a ruling that the city’s election funding plan is unconstitutional and an injunction preventing its application.”
Defending compelled campaign financing
One legislator, Alan Durning – who helped write Seattle’s voucher law – insists that PLC’s lawsuit against the city is meritless.
“There are dozens of programs around the U.S. that use small amounts of public funds to support campaigns, to give more of a voice to ordinary people and reduce the influence of big money,” Durning claimed, according to the Seattle Times. “Seattle’s program is no different and will certainly stand up to this court challenge.”
Left-leaning Seattle politicians have already greatly benefitted from the new forced tax on property owners.
“So far two City Council candidates – Teresa Mosqueda and Jon Grant in the Position 8 race – and City Attorney Pete Holmes have qualified to accept the vouchers by collecting threshold numbers of small-dollar contributions,” the Times announced. “Grant has redeemed the most, nearly $130,000 worth.”
Copyright American Family News. Reprinted with permission.