Coalition Delivers Petitions to Put Small Donor Campaign Finance Charter Amendment on the Anne Arundel County Ballot

Proponents say the new program would reduce the role of large and corporate donors in campaigns.

Annapolis, MD (August 1, 2022) – A coalition announced today the delivery of petitions with more than 11,000 signatures to the Board of Elections to put a charter amendment on the ballot that would create a small donor campaign finance system for Anne Arundel County executive and council races. (View a sample petition here.)

Progressive Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Anne Arundel County, Common Cause Maryland, and Maryland PIRG organized the drive after the Anne Arundel County Council fell one vote short of sending the measure to the ballot. A similar program exists for gubernatorial candidates and was used by Gov. Larry Hogan during his successful campaign in 2014. Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore City have also established local programs.

“We’re excited by the results of this petition drive to fix a broken and unfair campaign finance system that supports candidates willing to take massive sums of money from well-heeled corporate donors,” Progressive Maryland Executive Director Larry Stafford, Jr. said. “Small donor-funded elections will enable candidates with proven community support to win county council and executive races and therefore ensure that our elected officials are accountable to their constituents, not wealthy special interests.”

“Providing a public financing system for local elections gives popular candidates without access to wealthy donors a fair shot at public service,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said. “I applaud all of the coalition partners who did the work to get this amendment on the ballot.”

Voters across the political spectrum agree that money plays too big a role in politics. Similar Charter Amendments have been passed by voters in Howard County (2016), Baltimore City (2018), and Baltimore County (2020). 

Under the small donor systems, candidates for County Council and County Executive who abide by stricter ethics and transparency rules like not taking giant checks from large donors, corporations, or PACs can qualify to receive limited matching funds for small donations they receive from Anne Arundel County residents. Candidates must qualify to participate by reaching thresholds for small donations raised to show viability and support from the community.

The signatures of the more than 11,000 Anne Arundel County residents will be reviewed by the Board of Elections. If certified by the Board, the amendment will then be included on the ballot in the general election this November for consideration by Anne Arundel County voters. 

“I am thrilled that citizens of Anne Arundel County have rallied behind the idea of public campaign finance. We must ensure that our democracy, at all levels of government, is not dominated by those who can afford to buy it,” Anne Arundel County Council Chair Lisa Rodvien said.

“I am excited to see that Anne Arundel County voters and community leaders decided not to give up after the Council failed to pass this,” said Common Cause Maryland Executive Director Joanne Antoine. “Collecting thousands of petitions is no easy task and this effort proves that residents not only want a new way to fund local elections, but have the people-power to make that happen. This same people-power will be used to urge voters to approve the charter amendment this November. We look forward to Anne Arundel County voters creating the sixth program of its kind in the state, and the first established through the initiative process.”

“Big money plays too big a role in our elections,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr. “We encourage all Anne Arundel County voters to support this Charter Amendment to expand opportunities to run for office, lower average contributions, and increase participation in local government. It’s better for candidates, for the community, and for our democracy.”

The Coalition is hopeful that Anne Arundel County can pave a new way for fair elections in the County.