Maine, Ohio Initiatives Mark Emerging Democracy Reform Movement

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  • Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman
Voters Push Against Big Money, For Fair Redistricting

Tuesday’s voting across America produced the first solid evidence of a new citizens’ movement to break the dominance of big money in politics and reclaim control of our democracy, Common Cause President Miles Rapoport said tonight.

“There’s a direct link between the big votes in Maine for accountable elections and Ohio for fair redistricting. Voters across the country understand the damage big money and mindless partisanship are doing to our democracy; they showed today that they’re determined to reverse it,” Rapoport said.

In Maine, the strong vote (55% yes with 73% of precincts reporting) for Question 1 is like a flare to a nation desperate for leadership that points the way toward solutions that can and do work. Maine’s “accountable elections” public financing initiative restores funding and augments what was the first in the nation small donor public financing law when it originally passed in 1996, Rapoport said.

“Voters in Maine, like almost all Americans in both parties, are mad as hell about money in politics, so they stopped talking about the problem and did something about it. They sent a signal to Big Money that common sense rules governing our politics are possible, indeed essential if we’re to have truly robust political debates, and that the people will pass them through citizen action if legislatures fail to act.

In Ohio, the overwhelming vote (71% yes with 60% of precincts reporting) for Issue 1, amending the state constitution to end partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts, is a message to Democratic and Republican partisans alike, Rapoport said. “Thanks to cynically-manipulated district lines, we now have a system in which politicians choose their voters; today’s vote signals that the voters are determined to get back to elections in which we choose our leaders.”

While west coast votes are still being counted, Rapoport said he’s optimistic about the prospects for voter approval of Seattle’s Initiative 122, which would create “democracy vouchers” — $25 coupons that voters would receive in the mail four times during the election cycle. Voters could “donate” the money to candidates participating in the voucher system who in turn would accept stricter spending and fundraising caps and be required to participate in at least three public debates. The ballot measure would also lower caps for how much an individual donor can give in an election, and would tighten lobbying regulation.

“These elections have gotten far too little attention from national reporters focused on a presidential election that is still a year away. Tonight, the states are showing a path forward for our democracy; national leaders would be well advised to follow it.