The DC Council unanimously passed the Fair Elections Act, creating a program where candidates for public office can opt into a publicly-funded model that puts greater focus on small-dollar contributions from DC residents and strengthens their voice in DC elections. The bill was introduced by Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6), Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.
“The Fair Elections Act is going to change the way campaigns are run locally. More residents will be empowered to participate, more candidates from diverse perspectives will be viable to run, and candidates will spend more time talking to residents rather than dialing for dollars,” said Councilmember Allen. The program is expected to be in place for the 2020 election cycle.
Neighboring Montgomery County is going through their first election cycle – a study looking at the first fundraising reports show candidates in the public-financing program raised a stunning 92 percent more of their contributions from small-dollar donors than candidates under the traditional system.
How the program will work: Candidates agree to a much lower maximum donation level and cannot accept any donations from corporations or businesses. In exchange, every dollar donated by a District resident will receive a 5-to-1 dollar match. Additionally, once candidates qualify for the program, they receive a base grant amount – the first half when they reach the fundraising qualifying threshold, and the second half when the candidate qualifies for the ballot.
How to qualify: Candidates can’t just sign up and receive tax-payer money. They must demonstrate viability both as a fundraiser and by collecting enough ballot petition signatures. To qualify for public funds, a candidate must raise a certain amount of money from a certain number of donors.
The Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety is chaired by Councilmember Allen and has Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large), Councilmember Anita Bonds (At-Large), Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3), and Councilmember Vince Gray (Ward 7) as members.
The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Allen, Grosso, Cheh, Silverman, Robert White, Nadeau, McDuffie, Trayon White, and Chairman Mendelson. On first vote last month, the bill passed 13-0.