Override of HoCo veto of Fair Election law will help take big money out of local elections

On Monday, July 3, the Howard County council in legislative session is expected to override County Executive Allan Kittleman's veto of the Citizens' Election Fund legislation, Council Bill 30 (CB30). This action will reinforce what the people of Howard County voted for in November 2016 when they passed Question A.  Question A mandated the formation of the Citizens' Election Fund and the enabling law was passed by a 4-1 vote in council on June 5 of this year.

Progressive HoCo activist Dave Bazell outlines the possible futures of this good law.

/By Dave Bazell/ On Monday, July 3, the Howard County council will meet in legislative session.  The council is expected to override County Executive Allan Kittleman's veto of the Citizens' Election Fund legislation, Council Bill 30 (CB30).

 This action will reinforce what the people of Howard County voted for in November 2016 when they passed Question A.  Question A mandated the formation of the Citizens' Election Fund and the enabling law was passed by a 4-1 vote in council on June 5 of this year.  The Citizens' Election Fund, in accordance with CB30, will provide matching funds to candidates for local office in Howard County, regardless of their party.  Candidates will be required to meet certain qualifying criteria, including being able to raise a minimum amount of money to show they are viable candidates, and agreeing to not accept contributions from big money donors such as PACs, corporations, and unions.

 Unfortunately, Mr. Kittleman vetoed CB30 a few days after it was passed.  He did so quietly because he knew that the people would object to his veto.  This is why the council will vote again, this time to override.

 Passage of the Citizens' Election Fund was a major victory for Howard County residents.  It places Howard County, along with Montgomery County and a number of other jurisdictions outside of Maryland, at the forefront of election reform.  Getting big money out of politics is important because it returns control of issues to the people by reducing the ability of corporations and PACs to influence candidates' stands on issues, as well as reducing corporations' ability to influence the outcome of elections by pouring money into “independent” advertising.  It allows candidates to run for office who would not otherwise be able to afford it because they don't have personal wealth or connections to other wealthy individuals and corporations.

 But our work does not stop here.  It is possible that the opposition will take the passage of CB30 to referendum.  If this happens we will have to stage an education campaign in the county to broaden the understanding of the fair elections issue.  And we can be sure the opposition will be spreading stories to scare people into voting for repeal.  It will be essential to publicize the benefits of fair elections, some of which were listed above.

  But just as important, people need to understand the consequences of repealing a law that is the result of the voter demands.  While Question A mandated the formation of the election fund, it did not specify the sources or mechanisms for funding it.  That is what Council Bill 30 does.  It makes explicit where the money will come from, how much money has to be in the fund, and who is eligible to use the fund.  Without legislation specifying these, and other, details, many aspects of the mandate are unclear.  Where would the money come from, the county's rainy day fund?  Who would be eligible for matching funds?  Exactly what is the match?  Without answers to these questions the election process could be in disarray.

 These are some of the topics that must be discussed in the education campaign and why such a campaign will be necessary.  It will require volunteers to knock on doors to discuss fair elections issues voters and help them understand why repeal would be wrong and problematic. It will require volunteers to place door hangers so the fair elections issue is fresh in the voters’ minds when they go to the polls.  It will require volunteers to make calls to reach out to fellow citizens. 

 We will need volunteers in these and other areas, and we will be coordinating with other groups who have done so much to ensure the passage of the CB30.  Maybe it won't come to this, but we need to plan and prepare.  Get involved and make your voice heard!


Dave Bazell is a Progressive HoCo activist.