Blog — Elections
Next week is election week around the country, and it’s a big week, not just for the politicians whose names are on ballots. Citizens in Seattle and Maine have the chance to lead the way toward fairer campaign financing everywhere when they consider ballot measures that would change how they run local elections.
In Seattle, the main innovation is a plan to fight fire with fire by publicly financing city elections. Every registered voter in the city would receive, free, four $25 coupons, known as “democracy vouchers,” that they could give to candidates of their choice in local elections. So, instead of limiting certain kinds of spending, which can be difficult after recent Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United v. FEC, Seattle’s plan would give spending power to citizens who don’t otherwise have it.
Maine’s Clean Election Act has been an example of public funding working on the state level since the 2000 elections; at one point, 85 percent of Maine’s state legislature was reportedly elected using this process. However, Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett (a decision that limited some aspects of public financing of elections) undermined Maine’s system; next week, Mainers will vote on a plan to revitalize it. In addition to ensuring that the funding is sufficient and strengthening penalties for breaking the rules, Maine’s ballot initiative would increase disclosure requirements even for those running “issue” ads, so voters know the top three donors who paid for any of those ads.
Seattle and Maine are both examples of local jurisdictions developing solutions that work for them, not waiting around for a nationwide solution that could be a long time coming. The people of Seattle and Maine should seize this opportunity and support their respective ballot measures, helping to move the country piece by piece toward elections where regular people can compete with moneyed interests for influence.
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