Chicago Voters Want to Curb Influence of Big Money, Empower Small Donors

Media Releases

Media Contacts
Dan Smith

Chicago Voters Overwhelmingly Support Fair Elections Ballot Question 79% to 21%


With over 70 percent of precincts reporting, Chicago voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot question calling for reforms to curb the influence of big money in our elections by empowering small donors.

 “While some races – most likely including the mayoral – are headed for runoffs, Chicago voters spoke loud and clear on one issue: it’s time to get big money out of our elections,” said Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr. 

 “While this year’s midterm elections were the most expensive in history, they were funded by a smaller number of donors than the previous midterm. Here in Chicago, our research found that the overwhelming majority of money fueling the Mayoral race came from a relatively small number of donors contributing at levels the average Chicagoan simply can’t afford. Just two percent of contributions to all mayoral candidates came from donors chipping in $150 or less. The voters have spoken. Now it is up to our newly elected leaders to act.”

 Programs to amplify the voices of small donors and incentivize candidates to fund their campaigns with small contributions raised from their own constituents are proven to work. New York City has a small donor empowerment program that matches small contributions up to $175 with limited public funds. In the 2013 New York City Council races, once matching funds were factored in, small donors were responsible for 61 percent of the participating candidates’ contributions. In the fall of 2014, lawmakers in Montgomery County, Maryland created a similar system.

  “When campaigns are paid for by big donors, those are the voices candidates hear the loudest. Since most of us can’t afford to cut a thousand dollar check to candidates for elected office, we need to counter the outsized influence of mega-donors by amplifying the voices of small donors,” said U.S. PIRG Democracy Campaign Director Dan Smith.

 “The results tonight add to the growing movement across the country to put ordinary Americans back in charge of our elections.”