Howard County voters will get to choose more than just their next representatives next month: Question A on the ballot will let them choose whether to establish public funding for local campaigns.
Question A asks Howard County voters whether to approve a charter amendment that requires establishment of a fund providing local office candidates matching campaign funds, provided they raise a threshold amount and swear off large contributions. Reports MarylandReporter.com:
Ben Cohen, the Ben of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, was in Columbia last week to promote a cause he embraced years ago. “He launched his own nonprofit on the issue a number of years back and has traveled the country supporting initiatives to get big money out of politics,” said Taylor Smith-Hams, an organizer for the effort to pass Question A.
Cohen told the rally in a Columbia home that “More and more municipalities like yours are voting for small donor matches which is a way to amplify the voices of regular people so politicians listen to them and not just the giant, big money donors. This has proven to be real successful in New York City which also passed a small donor match and it totally changed the face of the city council in New York.”
Supporters say that this is the first time in the country that public financing of local campaigns is being put to referendum for approval. Under the proposal, an independent commission would make funding recommendations to the County for annual appropriations to ensure functionality for the 2022 election cycle. Said Sen. Ben Cardin,
We’ve got to win this initiative. The integrity of the election system is at stake. With the current way campaign funds are raised, we can tell you how corrupting it is.
Said Congressman John Sarbanes,
We’re [going to] win here, and when we win here, my head is going to explode.
Common Cause Maryland, Progressive Maryland, Maryland PIRG, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Democracy Initiative Education Fund and Every Voice are supporting the measure.