Howard County can become the second Maryland county to choose limited public financing for elections and begin to get the influence of big money out of local elections. Voters can opt for fair elections on the November ballot.
/By Jordan Baucum Colbert/ Since the Maryland General Assembly passed the Campaign Reform Act in 2013, one county (Montgomery County) has adopted limited public financing for local elections, and now Howard County is on a path to do the same, reducing the effects of big money in elections.
In 2013, the general assembly passed the Campaign Reform Act, which authorizes counties within the state of Maryland to establish a campaign finance system for County Executive and County Council. In 2014, Montgomery County Council became the first in Maryland to propose a small donor campaign finance system that matches funds during local elections. That bill was passed by unanimous vote and took effect January 2015.
On April 4, 2016, the County Council of Howard County passed a Resolution to amend the County Charter to establish a Citizens’ Election Fund (CEF), a system that would allow candidates relying on small donors to receive limited funds matched by the County. On November 4, the residents of Howard County will vote on whether to adopt or reject the amendment.
The purpose of the CEF is to give residents control of politics and policy making. At times, candidates who receive donations from special interests groups and wealthy organizations make it hard for other candidates to compete, leaving room for big corporations to push their personal agendas on government officials. Amending the Howard County Charter for this purpose promotes diversity among candidates and encourages small donors to participate in the election process.
Often too many times, we see candidates with a strong constituency base get drowned out by candidates with big money and those with the support of wealthy businesses. As a result, the voices of constituents go unheard and the big issues take a back seat to the agenda of big corporations. The time has come to strengthen our democracy by keeping big money out of Howard County and putting the destiny of our future into the hands of average citizens.
Progressive Maryland and coalitions across Howard County are encouraging residents to vote YES for the CEF in November and promote a clean election process through the County’s public financing system. Lets encourage everyday citizens, not big corporations to compete in elections so that our voices will be heard!
Jordan Baucum Colbert, J.D., is Policy and Civic Engagement Coordinator for Progressive Maryland.