Major Step Forward for Fair Elections in Washington, DC

Release Date: 
December 13, 2017

Washington, D.C.-- Today’s 5-0 vote by the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to advance the Fair Elections Act of 2017 (B22-0192) to the full Council for consideration is a major step forward for the campaign, supporters said today. They called on the Council to immediately schedule a vote to pass the legislation.

Councilmembers Charles Allen, David Grosso, Anita Bonds, Mary M. Cheh, and Vincent C. Gray voted unanimously in favor of the legislation, which passed without amendment.

During the runup to today’s committee vote, more than 80 community leaders signed a letter urging Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council to support the legislation. The letter is available here.

Valerie Ervin, regional director for the Working Families Party in D.C., said, “This is a huge step forward in the fight for Fair Elections. Today’s Judiciary Committee vote brings us closer to making Fair Elections a reality in the District. This bill is essential wto reducing barriers for D.C. voters and candidates, especially people of color and women. We’re calling on the Council to pass Fair Elections so we can counter the power of big donors in elections, and ensure diverse candidates with community backing have the financial support they need to win.”

“D.C. Fair Elections will strengthen candidates with deep community support and force successful campaigns to fundraise at block parties instead of black tie dinners,” said Keshini Ladduwahetty, Chair of DC for Democracy

Monica Kamen, Co-Director, DC Fair Budget Coalition, said “The District invests in all of our critical infrastructure like roads, sidewalks, education, healthcare and housing. We should be investing in the critical infrastructure of our democracy as well.” –

“Fair Elections will empower voters and create a better democracy for our city,” said Margrete Strand-Rangnes, executive vice president of Public Citizen. “Today’s vote is a big step to ensure that D.C. elected officials are accountable to voters, not big donors.”

Emmanuel Caicedo, Demos Senior Campaign Strategist, said, “Today’s vote is an important step in democratizing our elections by empowering small donors in Washington, D.C. The Fair Elections Act of 2017 would break down barriers to running for office, and amplify the voices of people who are often drowned out by the power and influence of big money.”

“The Fair Elections Act would empower candidates with grassroots community support, not those with financial backing from polluters and other corporate interests, said Mark Rodeffer, Chair, DC Sierra Club

About the Legislation

Fair Elections would empower voters and balance the scales of our democracy for people of color and women. Under the voluntary program, candidates would agree to take only small donations in exchange for a five-to-one match, paid for through a public fund, along with a startup grant – a cost that amounts to 0.006 percent of the annual budget. The program would be available to candidates running for mayor, attorney general, D.C. Council or the D.C. State Board of Education.

Successful programs were recently enacted in Montgomery and Howard counties and already exist in New York City and Connecticut. In D.C., the program would shift voting power back into the hands of voters, particularly women and people of color, who too frequently are drowned out by wealthier donors who do not reflect the diversity of D.C.’s residents.

Supporters of the program argue that it will help support racial equity in our elections and reduce barriers for under resourced candidates who want to run for office. Currently, D.C.’s donor class is whiter, wealthier, older and more male than the District’s population. More than 60 percent of campaign contributions come from either individuals who don’t live in D.C., or from corporations and PACs, while only 5 percent come from voters giving $100 or less.

A super-majority on the Council introduced the legislation in March of 2017, with nine co-introducers, Councilmembers David Grosso, Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Phil Mendelson, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and Trayon White, with Anita Bonds co-sponsoring the bill.

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