Letter: Fund Baltimore Fair Elections

Today, the Baltimore Fair Elections Coalition submitted a letter to Mayor Brandon Scott, Council President Nick Mosby, and the Baltimore City Council calling on them to make an  investment of $2.5 million in the FY22 budget for the Fair Election Fund.

The City Council created a Fair Elections Fund and program after voter authorization in 2018. Now, they need to get the program off to a strong financial start. 

To do so, we are encouraging the City to include an investment of $2.5 million in the FY22 budget to the Fair Election Fund and to move quickly to finalize the Fair Elections Commission, as outlined by the City Charter. In order to ensure the program is viable for 2024, it is critically important we finalize the commission and get the program started with a strong first installment of funding.

Thanks to the support of the City Council, Baltimore City took a huge step forward for Fair Elections by passing Council Bill 19-0403. Large campaign contributions, which few Baltimore City residents can afford to make, have too much influence over who can run for office, what issues make it onto the agenda, and who wins. And these big donors aren’t reflective of Baltimore families —they’re wealthier, and they are also far less likely to be women or people of color, and they have starkly different priorities when it comes to public policies.

The role of large donors contributes to an already shrinking faith in government. But small donor public financing programs have proven effective in Maryland and in DC as a way to reduce the role of large donors and increase small donor participation.

The Fair Elections program will amplify the voices of Baltimore working families by encouraging small-dollar donations, and providing matching funds for candidates who abide by stricter ethics and transparency rules, like not taking giant checks from lobbyists, corporations, or PACs. By reducing the role of these large donors we can ensure everyone can have a voice in our elections, regardless of how much money they make.

That’s why we are encouraging Mayor Scott and the City Council to lead Baltimore forward by getting this program off to a strong fiscal start in the FY 2022 budget.

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For too long, Baltimore's elections have been dominated by large and corporate donors, but things could be different in 2024.  Please tell Mayor Scott and the City Council: Fund Fair Elections for Baltimore.

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Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Emily has helped win small donor public financing in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County. She has played a key role in establishing new state laws to to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms, require testing for lead in school drinking water and restrict the use of toxic flame retardant and PFAS chemicals. Emily also serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition and the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working. Emily lives in Baltimore City with her husband, kids, and dog.