Baltimore City desperately needs Fair Elections. Public financing of elections allows more diverse candidates to run, more opportunities for candidates to meet with regular voters rather than wealthy donors, and more voices to be heard in the political process. In a Fair Elections jurisdiction, individuals and corporations with the deepest pockets can no longer dominate the political scene.
On Tuesday, the Fair Elections Coalition met collectively to discuss implementation of Baltimore’s Fair Elections Fund and Commission. The room was filled with both coalition partners and interested newcomers. The coalition currently includes JUFJ, Maryland PIRG, the NAACP, Progressive Maryland, Common Cause, and many others, as well as individuals. This coalition has supported publicly financed local elections in Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George’s County and other jurisdictions (JUFJ is also part of the DC Fair Elections coalition), towards our ultimate goal of achieving statewide publicly financed elections.
Baltimore voters overwhelmingly passed Question H in November 2018, amending the city charter to permit public financing. JUFJ advocated for that amendment. Now it’s up to the City Council to pass legislation to implement that vote.
Baltimore’s Fair Elections bill will allow candidates to opt in to a small donor public financing system with matching funds. Candidates who take advantage of this system cannot accept contributions over $150, or any corporate or PAC money. The bill will be introduced on Monday, June 17 by Councilman Kristerfer Burnett.
The coalition is holding a press conference that day at 4:00 PM to support the bill. We want the strongest possible bill, in order to both appeal to candidates so they opt in, and most effectively raise up regular voters’ voices. Councilman Burnett’s bill should exemplify how to get big money out of politics. With this bill, we can return our political system back to the people and hold our leaders accountable.