The Maryland attorney general’s office announced that it would be legal for the state to allow public financing for candidates on a county-by-county basis. The opinion is likely to spur the drafting of such a bill in 2018.
According to The Washington Post,
Del. Marc A. Korman (D-Montgomery) contacted the attorney general’s office in May for guidance on whether a localized approach to public financing — as opposed to a statewide option — would hit constitutional roadblocks. A county-by-county approach was so novel that it left certain questions, such as how to handle legislative districts that don’t match up with county lines, unanswered.
Korman called the office’s opinion “good news” and said he will move forward with drafting a bill, which he and other advocates say would increase opportunities for candidates to run for office without relying on big individual or corporate donors.
Thirteen states — including Maryland — and a handful of localities have some form of public financing for elections. In 2014, the Montgomery County Council authorized partial public financing for county executive and council candidates. In June, Howard County approved its own system, which is similar to Montgomery’s and will take effect for the 2022 election cycle.
Proponents of public financing for candidates say such programs boost citizen engagement in elections by amplifying the power of small donors and encourage more candidates to run in local races.
Opponents of public financing argue that the government has no business in funding individual campaigns. There are also concerns that a localized option would create a disadvantage for candidates in less wealthy counties, which may be reluctant to use tax revenue to fund political campaigns.
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