Last November, Howard County MD residents voted to take back their elections by fighting big money. On Monday night, the Howard County Council voted 4-1 to stand with their constituents and establish the Citizens’ Election Fund.
The victory followed months of voter education, highlighting ways in which the program will tear down barriers to running for office, elevate the voices of Howard County residents, and ensure that candidates run on the strength of their ideas and not their access to big money.
In weeks leading up to Monday’s vote, council members received a barrage of emails and phone calls from residents in support of the program, along with hundreds of postcards collected through grassroots events and petitions gathered through on-the-ground canvassing. The focus was on making sure we got the votes needed to overturn an anticipated veto from County Executive Kittleman.
The Citizens’ Election Fund will be in effect for the 2022 election cycle. Candidates for County Council and county executive who turn down contributions over $250 and rejected contributions from corporations, unions and PACs, will be eligible to receive limited public funds matching small contributions from Howard County residents. The matching funds are tiered to incentivize the smallest donations most. To qualify for matching funds, candidates must reach small dollar fundraising thresholds to show their viability and community support. An independent commission will make funding recommendations to the county executive and County Council for annual funding appropriations. In Montgomery County, where a similar program is in effect, 17 candidates already have filed their intent to use the program for the 2018 election.
This was a big win for Howard County, for Maryland, and for the country. We’re proud to be part of this movement and are thankful to all who helped secure this victory. Howard County has joined other communities in passing reforms that strengthen our democracy and is helping to build the momentum needed for statewide reforms.
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel is executive director of Common Cause Maryland.
Issues: Money in Politics