Montgomery County boldly supports fair elections

By Emily Scarr
State Director

The Montgomery County Council took an important step forward for fair elections itoday by voting unanimously to add $4 million to the Public Campaign fund.

A citizens’ task force suggested $10 million is needed for the program to succeed and recommended a $4 million installment for FY17, but County Executive Ike Leggett only included $1 million in his FY17 budget. The $4 million added to the $1 million from the County Exec and the existing $1 million from FY16 puts the Public Campaign Fund on track to be fully funded and successful.

Montgomery County isn't the only Maryland County taking action to address money and politics at a local level. In April, the Howard County Council voted to send the "Citizen's Election Fund" to the ballot for approval in November, the first step in the County establishing their own small donor matching program.

In our democracy, the depth of your pocket should not dictate the volume of your voice. We’re thrilled that the Montgomery County Council increased their commitment to getting big money out of local elections by making strong investment in their small donor matching program.

In Montgomery County concerned citizens testified at the budget hearings and made hundreds of emails and calls into Council offices asking the County Council to put $4 million into the budget to fund the fair elections program.

In a small donor fair elections system, candidates for County Council or County Executive who turn down large contributions and contributions from special interests can receive limited matching funds for small contributions from their county. Candidates must qualify to participate in the program by showing strong support from citizens in their district.

There is no doubt that national eyes are on this program in Maryland. By putting small donor incentives into action in Montgomery County, the public will get to see the effectiveness of the program, building the support and track record we need to pass state and federal reforms.

Democracy works best when members of the public are engaged. There’s no doubt that our democracy is in a perilous state. But we have an incredible opportunity to take local action to put our country on track to fix our broken campaign finance system.

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