Charter Amendment lays the groundwork for small donor public financing of County elections.
Baltimore County — Supporters and community leaders are applauding the presumed passage of Question A, a Baltimore County Charter Amendment to establish the Citizens’ Election Fund and Commission. As of 12:00pm on Wednesday, November 4th, the unofficial vote count for the Baltimore County elections has Question A passing with 56% of the vote, outpacing the “against” votes by more than 26,000 votes. This is a monumental step forward towards more inclusive, fair, and representative campaigns in Baltimore County.
With costs to run for office in Baltimore County rapidly increasing and growing public concern over big money in politics, Question A amends the Baltimore County Charter and enables the County Council to establish the Baltimore Citizens’ Election Fund, a small donor campaign finance system for County Executive and Council races.
In recent years the cost to run for Baltimore County Council has dramatically increased, and candidates for County Executive have consistently raised or spent in the muli-millions. According to a forthcoming report from Common Cause Maryland, in 2018, four candidates for County Executive raised over $1 million dollars for their campaign. The winning candidate for County Executive raised $2,216,067.29.
With a Citizens’ Election Fund program, qualifying candidates who abide by stricter ethics and transparency rules, like not taking giant checks from lobbyists, corporations, or PACs can qualify to receive limited matching funds for small donations they receive from Baltimore County residents.
The Charter Amendment for the Fair Election Fund was spearheaded by County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. During the fall the coalition, which is supported by local, state, and national organizations and volunteers worked to reach voters wherever they could, safely: talking to community groups online, hosting Zoom happy hours and house parties, and pounding the virtual pavement with educational information via social media, texts, phones, and letter writing.
Supporters of Question A released the following statements:
“This program will enable community leaders, especially those that are young and from under-represented groups, the ability to run true grassroots campaigns,” explained Samay Kindra, the Ballot Committee Chair. “The Citizens’ Election Fund will give communities a greater voice in elections, which is something we need now more than ever.”
“When campaigns are dominated by large and corporate donors, we all lose. In passing Question A, voters have sent a clear message to the County Council that Baltimore County residents should have a voice in local government regardless of how much money they have. The County Council should move swiftly to finalize the fair elections program” said Maryland PIRG director Emily Scarr.
“The Citizens’ Election Fund can expand opportunities to run for office, so more women and people of color can compete for County Council and County Executive races,” explained Common Cause Maryland executive director Joanne Antoine. “We are thrilled that voters have supported Question A to help build a more reflective and representative government.”
“To solve big problems, we need leadership that’s reflective of our communities. Question A will enable more everyday county residents with good ideas and a call to public service to run for office without connections to big-dollar contributors,” said Progressive Maryland’s Deputy Executive Director, Jennifer Dwyer.
“We know that local issues matter, and we know that local voices matter. The voters have collectively proclaimed their support for small donor public financing for Baltimore County . We are looking forward to working with the community and Council to implement the program and to seeing a more democratic and accessible election process in the County for years to come,” said Jews United for Justice Baltimore Community Organizer Rianna Lloyd.
“We are thrilled that the majority of voters see the benefit of a Citizens Election Fund for Baltimore County elections. But our work isn’t done yet. We ask any county resident who wants to fight big money in local politics to get involved with our campaign” said Represent Maryland Chair Cristi Demnowicz.
For more information about Question A and the campaign, visit https://www.baltimorecountyfairelections.org/
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The grassroots campaign in support of Question A for the Baltimore County Citizen Election Fund has been endorsed by local, state and national organizations including Baltimore County League of Women Voters, Baltimore County Progressive Democrats Club, Baltimore County Young Democrats, Baltimore County Youth Speaks, Baltimore Women United, Clean Water Action, Common Cause Maryland, Food and Water Action Fund, Get Money Out Maryland, Jews United for Justice, Maryland PIRG, Progressive Maryland, Represent Maryland, Sierra Club Greater Baltimore Group, Democracy Initiative.
Authority: Yes for A! Baltimore County Citizens’ Election Fund, Zachary Kovach, Treasurer