Citizen activists, political figures back Howard's Citizens' Election Fund

Question A on Howard County's  November 8 enables public financing for local elections and could help get big money out of the county's local politics and restore real democracy

/By Jordan Baucum Colbert/ Things are heating up in Howard County for the Citizens’ Elections Fund, , a small donor system that will match contributions given to candidates who agree to reject large and corporate donations.  It will be Question A for Howard County voters on the Nov. 8 ballot.

 The Fair Elections Howard County Official Kick Off on September 13 was nothing short of amazing.  From special guest speakers, to empowering stories by members of the community, it could not be clearer: Howard County residents are ready for campaign finance reform.

 As guests packed the room, the program started with a list of prominent figures such as Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. John Sarbanes, Chairperson Calvin Ball, Councilperson Jennifer Terassa, and Councilperson Jon Weinstein, who all empathically expressed the time for campaign finance reform in Howard County is now!

 Rep. Sarbanes has been a champion for campaign finance reform since introducing the Government By the People Act in 2015.  While speaking at the Kick Off event, he shared his experience on the campaign trails during his quest to illustrate the power of the small donor system.  During his speech, Sarbanes shared how just hours before his deadline to raise money, one voter pledged to donate five dollars to his campaign, not only because she believed in Rep. Sarbanes, but because she believed in a democracy where small donors have a voice in politics.

 Further into the program, lead community activists for Howard County such as Pravin Ponnuri and David Marker shared their stories on the importance of diversity within the local government and the value of voting yes for public finance at the ballot box.

 Ponnuri, former candidate for the Howard County School Board and a dedicated member of the community, shared the importance of exercising the right to vote and spreading the word about the power of the small donor system.  During his speech, he stated, “We have seen the power of money in politics, nowadays, and elections are not about issues or ideas but it has become an election of money.”  Ponnuri further added,  “it’s about who can bring the maximum amount of money to elections, and that is the person that seems to be leading and that is bad because not only are they taking the democracy from us, but the most common people are getting disillusioned by politics.” 

 Leading up to Election Day, Ponnuri vowed to take action in his community and host a Fair Elections house party on October 6 in Ellicott City, to promote awareness on this issue and encourage his neighbors to “Vote Yes on Question A!”  You can RSVP for Ponnuri’s House Party event here.

Marker, a community activist and lead ambassador for campaign finance reform in Howard County also spoke on how a small donor system would strengthen democracy and encourage everyday citizens to run for office in Howard County. Long before a resolution to amend the County Charter to include a small donor system was proposed, Marker and his wife Mary served as strong advocates for creating a new method of running for office in the County.

After the County successfully passed a resolution to amend, the Markers organized a group of top leaders in their community to get out, knock on doors and make phone calls about the important small donor ballot initiative that, if successful, would realign the focus on money and bring more attention on various issues in Howard County.   The Makers will host a Fair Elections day event of canvassing and door knocking at their home on October 1.  You can RSVP for the event here.

 “Yes on the Citizens Election Fund!” is run by a coalition of organizations under Fair Elections Howard County, a branch of Fair Elections Maryland Campaign created to establish working systems of public funding for county elections across the state as well as the state legislature. Fair Elections Howard organizations Include Common Cause, Progressive Maryland, Maryland PIRG, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Democracy Initiative Education Fund and Every Voice.

 For information on how to get involved, please visit our Fair Elections sign up page.



Jordan Baucum Colbert is Policy and Civic Engagement Coordinator for Progressive Maryland.