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Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young speaks with members of the media in City Hall.
Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young speaks with members of the media in City Hall. (Joshua McKerrow / Capital Gazett/Capital Gazette)

Candidates for the upcoming primary election for Baltimore mayor have already raised over $2.3 million, and it’s only January (“Key takeaways from the first Baltimore mayor’s race campaign finance reports,” Jan. 16). Our current campaign finance system encourages candidates to raise as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, which creates a powerful incentive for candidates to spend time fundraising from people and businesses that can write big checks. Reading through their fundraising reports, it’s easy to feel like the voices of ordinary people don’t matter in the face of the checks from large donors.

Fortunately, things will be different in 2024. The City Council just finalized the Fair Elections program. Next election cycle, participating candidates won’t take donations over $150 or any money from corporations or political action committees. Instead, Baltimore residents who make small donations to participating candidates will have their donations amplified with matching funds. It’s exciting to envision a future where my $5 contribution can make a real, positive difference. A Fair Elections program allows candidates to spend their time speaking to voters and still compete with candidates funded by big money.

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Baltimoreans overwhelmingly supported the Fair Elections program on the 2018 ballot, and I applaud the Baltimore City Council for voting unanimously in favor of the bill. Now it’s time for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and members of the City Council to fund the program. So here’s to 2024 when city voters like you and me, and the issues we care about, can be front and center in our elections.

Rishi Shah, Baltimore

The writer is democracy associate at Maryland PIRG.

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