Despite roadblock from County Executive, Howard County Voters and Council establish small donor public financing for local elections
Ellicott City, MD – The Howard County Council voted 4-1 on Monday night to override a veto from County Executive Allan Kittleman of Council Bill 30 (CB30) to establish the Howard County Citizens’ Election Fund. Howard County is the 2nd county in the state, after Montgomery, to establish a voluntary program for small donor financing of County Council and County Executive races.
The Council originally passed the bill at their meeting on June 6th. County Executive Kittleman could have signed the bill into law or allowed it go into law without his signature, but instead vetoed the bill, sending a message to the Council and the voters that he would not support their efforts for small donor public financing of County Council and County Executive races.
In November, the citizens of Howard County voted to pass Question A, an amendment to the County Charter creating the Citizens’ Election Fund and directing the County government to finalize and fund the program. The Charter Amendment passed with more than 76,000 votes. County Executive Allan Kittleman campaigned against Question A in the fall. Other opponents of the measure have suggested they may try to bring the issue back to the ballot in 2018.
The new program will be in effect for the 2022 election cycle. To qualify for the program candidates for County Council and County Executive must turn down contributions over $250, all contributions from corporations, unions and PACs, and meet thresholds for small donations to demonstrate viability. Once they qualify they can receive limited matching funds for small contributions from Howard County residents.
The program is funded in a similar way as the state’s public financing program, which Governor Hogan used for his successful race for Governor. Residents can make voluntary contributions to the program, and the County can supplement those donations with general funds through the budget process to ensure the program has the funding necessary to fulfill its mission, as Governor Hogan has done with the statewide program. Initial projections estimate that the Howard County program would be a fraction of a percent of the County’s $1.1 billion annual budget, It would cost less than $650,000 a year and less than $3 million in a 4 year cycle.
In Montgomery County, where a similar program is in effect, 17 candidates have already filed intent to use the program for the 2018 election and 3 have met qualifying requirements to receive matching funds.
Statement from Fair Elections Howard Coalition
“We can’t imagine a better way to ring in the 4th of July then to establish citizen funded elections, independent of corporate money.
The Howard County Council has followed the lead of the voters by overturning the County Executive’s wrongheaded veto and establishing a citizen funded election program. This is an incredible step to ensure that elected officials are accountable to the voters, not corporations and wealthy donors.
Marylanders from all political parties and backgrounds agree that big money has thrown our democracy out of balance. A few wealthy donors, corporations, unions, and PACs have too much influence over who runs for office, who wins elections, and ultimately the public policies and budgets they produce, leaving our communities and families behind.”
The Citizens Election Fund will enable candidates from all backgrounds to run for office based on the strength of their ideas and support from the community, not access to wealth or donors. Let’s keep fighting, and winning, for our democracy.”
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The Fair Election Howard campaign has been endorsed by over 30 local and national organizations and small businesses, including 90+ Cycling, Advertising Media Plus, African American Community Roundtable of Howard County, African Gallery Imports, Artists & Framers, Bearing Gifts, Caplan’s Auction Company, Citizens’ Climate Lobby of Howard County, Clean Water Action, Clipper’s Canine Cafe, Common Cause Maryland, Communication Workers of America (CWA), Democracy Initiative, Every Voice, Finish Werks, Food and Water Action Fund, Free Speech for People, Greenpeace, Howard County Citizens Association, League of Women Voters of Howard County, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Maryland Music Academy, Maryland PIRG, Murillos’ Jewelry, NAACP, Progressive Maryland, Represent US, Sierra Club, Sinex Design Architects, Soft Stuff Ice Cream, Terrapin Adventures, The People’s Voice, TLV Tree Farm, Twenty Cycling Company, and U.S. PIRG.