Howard County Votes to Raise the Voices of Everyday People
Candidates for local office in Howard County, Md., will soon be able to run and win campaigns for office on the strength of their grassroots support instead of relying on big donors after the County Council voted Monday to override the County Executive Allan Kittleman’s veto of a bill to create a small-donor public financing program for elections there.
“I believe the bill before us sets us on a path to restore and improve confidence in our democracy here in Howard County,” Council Chairman Jon Weinstein said of his vote.
Like other small-donor empowerment programs around the country, the legislation will allow candidates to run for office without relying on the wealthy contributors and lobbyists who usually fund elections. It will give Howard County residents a more robust voice in the political process and open up elections there to allow candidates with strong community support—but who might not have access to big donors–to run competitive campaigns for office.
Under the program, participating candidates who agree to accept no donations over $250 will have their small donations matched, to a limit, on a seven-to-one basis for County Executive candidates and five-to-one for Council candidates. That means a $25 donation to your neighbor running for the Council will become $150. To qualify, candidates must show a broad base of community support by collecting a set number of qualifying contributions.
This legislation was passed following a 2016 ballot initiative that voters supported to allow for such a program to be created. In addition to Every Voice, that initiative and the bill passed on Monday are supported by Common Cause Maryland, Maryland PIRG, Progressive Maryland, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Democracy Initiative, Sierra Club, the NAACP, and many others.
Howard is the second county in Maryland to create such a system. Montgomery County’s small-donor program, passed in 2015, is in effect for the first time this cycle and several candidates are participating. On Election Day last November, voters in Berkeley, Calif., voted to create a small-donor program for its elections. Last December, the Portland, Ore., City Council also passed a similar program.
Around the country, people are coming together to fight back against the big-money takeover of our elections and for a democracy that works for everyone.
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