What is the text of the actual ballot question?
You can see a sample ballot on the Board of Elections website by clicking on Howard County.
Why does Howard County need this program?
The Citizens’ Election Fund would cut candidates’ direct ties to special interest money and encourage elected officials to focus on serving their constituents rather than fundraising. In 2014 more than $1 million was spent on county elections by donors from outside the county and less than 5% of the money raised by candidates came from Howard County residents giving $150 or less.
Don’t we already have this program?
No. Candidates running for governor or lieutenant governor have a similar program, but none exists for Howard County elections. Larry Hogan and Heather Mizeur used the state program for their 2014 gubernatorial races. In 2014, the Montgomery County Council created a small donor empowerment program. Howard County could be the next county to take this step.
How does the match work?
First, candidates have to hit fundraising and donation thresholds to demonstrate they have broad support and are a viable candidate. To qualify, candidates must also accept only small donations from individuals and no donations from corporations. Those small donations from county residents are then matched on a sliding scale, so for example a $25 contribution to a County Council candidate would become a $100 contribution. This allows candidates using the program to compete with candidates who take large and corporate contributions.
Is this public financing?
Yes. The Citizens’ Election Fund is a new type of public financing which incentivizes small donations. Hopefully, residents will be able to donate to the fund through check off boxes on their property taxes and water bills or through direct donations.
How much will this cost?
The program is expected to cost about $650,000 a year, which comes out to about two dollars a year per voter. To put that in perspective that’s less 1/10th of 1% of the overall County budget. It’s a valuable investment in the health of our democracy.
Does this mean we’ll be funding fringe candidates?
No. In order to qualify for the program candidates must demonstrate they are viable by hitting fundraising and donation thresholds.
Are Marylanders supportive?
70% of Maryland voters favor passing a campaign finance reform law that would provide a limited amount of funding to qualified candidates who agree to limit campaign spending and reject large contributions.
Where is this working?
25 states have programs that provide funds for use in election campaigns as well as cities. New York City has a small donor empowerment program that has been tremendously successful with 92% of primary candidates using the program. Seattle and Maine passed ballot initiatives to create and strengthen similar programs, and Montgomery County Maryland established their program in 2014.