Howard County Council Passes Resolution for Citizens’ Election Fund

Media Contacts
Emily Scarr

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

Weinstein-Terrasa charter amendment now heads to ballot for approval

Ellicott City – The Howard County Council took a big step forward today towards establishing a small donor incentive program for county elections. The Council voted 4-1 to pass a resolution to amend the County Charter to establish a citizens’ election fund. Now, Howard County voters will vote to authorize the fund through a ballot initiative in November.

In a small donor system, candidates for County Council or County Executive who turn down large contributions and contributions from special interests can receive limited matching funds for small contributions from their district. Candidates must qualify to participate in the program by showing strong support from citizens in their district.

Councilmembers Jon Weinstein and Jen Terrasa sponsored the resolution to add “Citizen Funded Campaigns” to the Howard County charter. The resolution is necessary to ensure the program can be funded over the four year election cycle. Howard County voters will need to approve the resolution at the ballot in November.

If the charter amendment is approved by voters in November the Council can move forward in establishing a small donor program for local races. Under their campaign financing proposal, an independent commission would make funding recommendations to the County Executive and County Council for annual funding appropriations to ensure the program is fully functional for all qualifying candidates in the 2022 election cycle.

In 2014, Montgomery County Maryland became the first community in Maryland to create a small donor incentive program for local elections. These programs give every-day voters their voice back in a political process too often dominated by wealthy contributors. Congressman Jon Sarbanes, who represents much of Howard County, has introduced the Government by the People Act to establish a similar program for congressional races.

The Fair Elections Maryland Coalition applauds Councilmembers Weinstein and Terrasa for their leadership in sponsor the resolution and thank Councilmembers Weinstein, Terrasa, Ball, and Sigaty for voting for the resolution.

“We thank the Council for putting this amendment on the ballot. In our democracy, the depth of your pocket should not dictate the volume of your voice,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr. “Howard County voters now have a chance to stand up to the corporations and mega donors who dominate our political process and put democracy back in the hands of everyday Marylanders.”   

“These fair elections programs strengthen our democracy by keeping special interests out of elections and putting voters back in charge,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland. “We commend the Council for their favorable vote on Resolution 27-2016, which is a critical investment in elections in Howard County. We are excited to hear from the voters on this exciting program in November.”

“Howard County has the opportunity to elevate the voices of everyday residents in County elections,” said William Roberts, Legislative Director for EveryVoice. “By making way for a system that reduces the influence of special interest money by empowering small donors, the Council will cement its commitment to the notion that big ideas and not big money should be the center of our elections and our political process.”

“We are pleased to see the Howard County council joining Montgomery County and other local leaders across the state in taking steps to limit the influence of big money in politics,” said Progressive Maryland Executive Director Larry Stafford. “This measure if enacted will go a long way to expanding the opportunity for all people to run for office without relying on special interest money.”

Fair Elections Maryland is a coalition of groups working to establish small donor incentive programs to shift political power away from large and corporate donors and back to everyday people.

Full text of the resolution can be found here.

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