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In favor of Question A: Fund will amplify the voices of small donors

"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union..."

The preamble to our Constitution starts with these simple and critical words. In recent years, the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision and the explosion of super PACs' funding elections across the U.S. have undermined our election system.

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Poll after poll shows that Americans understand: their voices are being drowned out by those who can afford to spend huge sums to broadcast their preferred message, and they are losing faith in elections and their government.

So what can "We the People" do?

Former House Speaker Tip O'Neill's simple words, "all politics are local," suggest we must start in our own communities. From Maine to Seattle, and next door in Montgomery County, communities are turning to a better way to fund elections. Even in D.C., progress is being made under the leadership of U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, who represents much of Howard County. He is championing a program to change the way elections are funded for congressional races with his "Government by the People" Act.

"Question A – Citizens' Election Fund" on the ballot in this fall's election is our opportunity to take action on this fundamental issue.

Voting "yes" on Question A would require Howard County to establish a "citizen funded election" program, where candidates opt to rely solely on small contributions from individuals to fund their campaigns and, in exchange, turn down large and corporate contributions.

Such a system serves the dual purpose of bringing more people into the democratic process and keeping corporate and PAC money out. Small contributions are matched with limited public funds, amplifying the voices of small donors.

Systems like this create opportunities for candidates to rely on small donors but remain competitive with candidates accepting large contributions from PACs, corporations, individuals, or other candidates' campaigns.

Voting "yes" on Question A is the first essential step to establishing citizen-funded campaigns here in Howard County. Our resolution takes local action to stem the disturbing national trend in election financing.

With a 4-1 vote in April, the council passed CR27 that placed Question A on the ballot this election for Howard County voters to decide. Around the same time the council passed the resolution, Gov. Hogan introduced a budget that moved $1.8 million from Maryland's general fund to the Fair Election Finance Fund, the state's public financing system. Bringing this measure to the voters is the best, most democratic way to affirm our community's commitment to improving our local election process.

A vote "yes" on Question A will enable the County Council to establish a citizen funded system and empower our citizens to have a greater voice in local elections. In the end, this resolution is our community's opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to a democracy for "We the people."

Council members Jon Weinstein and Jen Terrasa are co-sponsors of Council Resolution 27-2016, which placed the Citizens' Election Fund on the ballot.

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