D.C. Council Moves Forward Transformative Fair Elections Bill in Unanimous 13-0 Vote

Media Contacts
Joe Ready

U.S. PIRG and DC Fair Elections Coalition

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in a 13-0 vote the D.C. Council voted decisively to advance the Fair Elections Act of 2017 at first reading, which lays the foundation for public financing in the District and reduces barriers for DC candidates and voters, especially voters of color and women who make up the majority of small dollar donors. It is the first of two votes on the bill, with the second likely scheduled for early February, and sets the stage for the bill to become law. The bill was voted out of the Judiciary Committee 5-0 in December 2016.

The DC Fair Elections Coalition has been working tirelessly to make DC elections more inclusive by balancing the scales of democracy for DC voters and reining in the influence of big donors. As the vote heads to the Council for a second vote, advocates hailed today’s votes a huge step forward and called on the Council to pass and fully fund the program.

Key Components of Fair Elections Act of 2017:

  • Would be available to candidates running for Mayor, Attorney General, Council and Board of Education.

  • Would go into effect for the 2020 primaries and General Election.

  • Once enacted, candidates who wish to participate would receive a 5:1 match on all eligible contributions in exchange for agreeing to only accept small dollar donations.

  • This means that a $50 contribution to a candidate for a Ward level council seat would be matched with $250 by the program for an effective donation of $300, ensuring that candidates who participate in the program are competitive in their races and can rely on small local donors instead of big outside money.

Statements from the Fair Elections Coalition members:

Joe Ready, democracy program director with U.S. Public Interest Research Group:

“Congratulations to the Council of the District of Columbia on voting for the Fair Elections Act. Voters, not major donors and corporations, should decide who runs for and wins public office. Today’s vote was a step towards that standard.  The Fair Elections Act would create a program to empower regular people to engage in all levels of the democratic process.  U.S. PIRG urges the Council to continue their work by passing and funding the Fair Elections Act.”

Monica Kamen of the Fair Budget Coalition:

“We are one step closer to having fair elections in the District! By investing in our democracy, we will make sure that our elected officials truly represent the voices of their constituents and will work hard to prioritize our needs over wealthy campaign contributors. That means more funding and friendly legislation for housing, economic justice, food access, healthcare, and community safety.”

Valerie Ervin, Senior Adviser for the Working Families Party: added “Thanks to the overwhelming support from residents across the District, we are on the verge of passing Fair Elections. We applaud the Council for taking this important step forward and call on them to pass and fully fund this vital program. Once enacted, Fair Elections will help advance economic and racial equity in our elections by reigning in the influence of big donors by empowering the people who live and vote here.”

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen:

“Money plays an inordinate role in DC politics, resulting in scandal after scandal and tainting the public’s confidence in government. The small-donor Fair Elections program attacks this plague head on by taking big money out of our elections. It is an affordable and tested method of reducing political corruption.”

Susan Mottet, State Legislative Director, Every Voice:

“We are on the verge of something big here in DC. With today’s vote, the DC Council came one step closer to joining the growing number of states and local governments around the country taking action reduce the power of big money in our politics and ensure everyone has a voice in our political system, not just the wealthy and well-connected. Voters nationwide are frustrated with a political system that doesn’t work for them, and right in our nation’s Capital, we’re seeing proof that something can be done to ensure our democracy works for everyone, not just big donors.”

Emmanuel Caicedo, Senior Campaign Strategist, Demos:

“Today’s vote brings DC closer to strengthening its democracy by empowering its people, not corporations or the wealthy.  We applaud the Council for affirming the conviction of the more than 5000 D.C. residents, 80 community leaders, and70 community organizations who support Fair Elections. By staying the course and passing Fair Elections at the next vote, and ensuring that the program is fully funded and implemented, the Council will ensure that its political process is fairer for working families and people of color. We’re proud that DC is showing how to lead on democracy reforms.”


In March of 2016, the Fair Elections Act was introduced by a super-majority of the Council, with nine co-introducers: Councilmembers David Grosso, Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Phil Mendelson, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and Trayon White. Additionally, Anita Bonds co-sponsored the bill and Vincent Gray voted for it in committee in December. At today’s first reading, Councilmembers Jack Evans and Brandon Todd joined their colleagues to vote in favor of the legislation, giving it unanimous support.


The Council also hosted a public hearing on fair elections, where over 70 witnesses turned out to support the measure in June 2016.


About DC Fair Elections Coalition:

The DC Fair Elections Coalition is made up of over 70 organizations, including community groups, political clubs, ANCs, and advocates who are committed to advancing the DC Fair Elections Act to empower small donors and underrepresented communities in the District of Columbia.