The Anne Arundel County Council has set in motion a path to a public referendum enabling a Small Donor Funded Elections Program to open up the electoral process to candidates not backed by big money. Progressive Maryland along with Common Cause Maryland and the Maryland Public Interest Research Group are cheering this citizen-initiated process, in which AAC would join five other major state jurisdictions in a publicly funded elections process.
Fair Elections Fund Resolution Introduced in Anne Arundel County
Progressive groups advocated for this introduction and are hopeful for passage
Anne Arundel County, Maryland -- Progressive Maryland, Common Cause Maryland, Maryland PIRG and other organizations that are part of the Fair Elections Maryland Coalition are excited to witness the first step toward a long-awaited Small Donor Funded Elections Program (also called a Fair Elections Fund) for County Executive and County Council candidates.
Resolution #1-22, proposing an amendment to the Charter of Anne Arundel County, was introduced by County Council Chair Lisa Rodvien at the request of the County Executive. If the County Council passes the resolution, this will put the question of creating a Fair Elections Fund on the ballot for public vote in the November 2022 Election.
Too often, large campaign contributions determine who can run for and win office, and ultimately what priorities our government tackles. By enabling candidates with proven community support to run competitive races for elected office without accepting large or corporate contributions, a Fair Elections Fund will ensure that elected officials are accountable to their constituents, not wealthy special interests. This means that candidates can run for office on the strength of their ideas and support from their communities instead of on access to large and corporate donors.
Bringing this program to Anne Arundel County will build a more accessible and accountable local government. In small donor public financing programs across the state, participating candidates can only accept contributions below a certain dollar amount, but these donations then receive matching funds through the program, with the smallest contributions matched at the highest rate.
“A Small Donor Funded Election program ensures a government by the people. Just as we pay for poll workers and voting machines, this program is a critical investment in the health of our democracy. It will help ensure that politicians are using our tax dollars to address the most important unmet needs in Anne Arundel County instead of carving out benefits for their biggest donors,” said Jennifer Mendes Dwyer, Deputy Executive Director of Progressive Maryland. Fair Elections programs have proven popular with voters across Maryland and are effective in empowering small donors. Significant grassroots support is building to bring a Fair Elections program to Anne Arundel County: a petition circulated by local residents has garnered nearly 1,000 signatures to date.
“In our democracy, the depth of your pocket should not dictate the volume of your voice,” said Maryland PIRG Director, Emily Scarr. “Anne Arundel County voters should have a chance to stand up to the corporations and wealthy donors who dominate our election process and put democracy in the hands of everyday Marylanders. We urge the County Council to send this amendment to the voters for authorization so the County can join five other Maryland jurisdictions with small donor public financing.”
“These fair elections programs strengthen our democracy by keeping special interests out of elections and elevating the voices of everyday residents in our elections,” said Morgan Drayton, Policy & Engagement Manager of Common Cause Maryland. “As a resident of Anne Arundel County, I commend the Council for introducing Resolution 1-22, which is a critical investment in our elections, and urge them to send the Charter amendment to voters for approval this November.”
The Fair Elections Maryland Coalition has worked to successfully help pass resolutions for charter amendments establishing similar programs across the state. Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County have already established Fair Elections Funds. Maryland has had a public financing system for gubernatorial campaigns since the 1970s.