Washington, DC –As the DC Council is considering the Fair Elections Act of 2017, last night the DC Fair Elections Coalition hosted a community meeting at the Anacostia Public Library for local community members. More than 80 residents from local Wards 7 and 8 attended the meeting to learn more about the DC Fair Elections Act. Passing Fair Elections would mean that more working people, especially people of color and women, have a voice in our democracy by reigning in the influence of big money in our elections. That means elected officials will focus more on the needs of residents, especially those struggling to make ends meet.
A robust and diverse group of speakers participated in the event, including Councilmember Robert C. White, Jr. (At-Large), Councilmember Trayon White, Sr. (Ward 8), Markus Batchelor (Ward 8 Member DC State Board of Education), Rev. George Gilbert, Jr (Holy Trinity United Baptist Church), Shakira Hemphill (DC Young Democrats), Eugene Puryear (Justice First), Anita Shelton (DC Women in Politics), and Dexter Williams (DC Fair Elections Coalition).
Selections from their remarks include:
Shakira Hemphill from DC Young Democrats talked about her experience running for office and why she thinks fair elections will make an impact on who runs: "You want to be in the community showing your face and doing the work. I think about the mothers and people who you want in office, but maybe haven't raised as much money."
"Folks believe because I don't have money or I don't have influence in the halls of power, there's no need for me to engage, no need for me to invest, no need for me to ask questions, or the worst part - no need for me to vote. With this program, you've only got $10 or $20 - that's going to make a difference. That helps build back up our civic life," explained Markus Batchelor, Ward 8 Member DC State Board of Education, on how fair elections will help restore local democracy.
Anita Shelton from DC Women in Politics outlined how the fair elections act will empower low dollar donors: "This bill will allow more personal money to be contributed and multiplied. I believe we have people who want to run and fear they don't have enough money. Now not only do we have a vote, but we will have an opportunity to participate."
"We stand here today against big business and corporate control. I am tired. Tired of being tired, the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer. Tired of those politicians who we only see when they need to be re-elected. Tired of those politicians who know nothing about our children telling us what we should do in our community. Tired of outsiders controlling what happens inside the boundaries of our great city," Reverend George Gilbert Jr explained about the impact of big money in DC's democracy.
SEE PHOTOS BELOW
Dexter Williams moderates questions from the packed crowd at the DC Fair Elections Coalition public meeting. [Photo Credit: DC Fair Elections Coalition]
From L to R: Markus Batchelor, Ward 8 Member DC State Board of Education; Anita Shelton, DC Women in Politics; Eugene Puryear, Justice Fist; Reverend George Gilbert, Jr., Holy Trinity United Baptist Church; Shakira Hemphill, DC Young Democrats; Dexter Williams, DC Fair Elections Coalition. [Photo Credit: DC Fair Elections]
About Fair Elections Act of 2017:
If enacted and funded by the District of Columbia Council, the Fair Elections Act of 2017 would empower voters by providing limited public matching funds to qualified candidates. The legislation would establish a voluntary matching program, where small donations to qualified candidates would be matched 5:1. For example, a $50 contribution would be matched with $250 for an effective contribution of $300. By matching funds, Fair Elections would ensure participating candidates remain competitive. To qualify, candidates must accept lower campaign contribution limits and collect a minimum number and amount of small contributions depending on the office they are seeking.
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. Anita Bonds is co-sponsoring the bill.
The Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the bill in June. Over 70 witnesses signed up to testify in support of the bill, with nearly every single one in favor of it. Supporters expect the committee and the Council to act on the legislation this year.
About DC Fair Elections Coalition:
The DC Fair Elections Coalition is made up of over 70 organizations, including community groups, political clubs, ANCs, and advocates who are committed to advancing the DC Fair Elections Act to empower small donors and underrepresented communities in the District of Columbia.