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  • Daniel G. Newman

A Year of Victories: How MapLight Improved Our Democracy in 2022

As we move into a new year fighting to strengthen our democracy, MapLight is taking stock of the hard-fought, critical victories we achieved in 2022 that are already making our democracy more resilient and transparent. We worked at the federal, state, and local levels to advance major legislative goals; improve transparency and disclosure systems; and provide comprehensive, unbiased information to voters about every race and candidate on their ballots.

Here’s a look at several of our major milestones and accomplishments from 2022: Reforming the “Electoral Count Act” to Strengthen Democracy

In late December, Congress took a key step forward for democracy by passing the Electoral Count Reform Act to clarify outdated federal guidelines for certifying and counting votes for President and Vice President. The new legislation makes it clear the Vice President does not have the authority to overturn election results if they do not like the outcome – quashing the flawed interpretation that fueled former President Trump’s demands that Mike Pence refuse to certify the 2020 election. The new law also prohibits state legislatures from overruling their voters; provides procedures to resolve disputes about election certifications before such disputes reach Congress; and limits opportunities for members of Congress to call certified election results into question.

Research and advocacy from MapLight helped to lay the groundwork for the key reform. Our report, Election in Peril, outlined the problems and lack of clarity with the Electoral Count Act and garnered an opinion piece in the Washington Post to spark conversation about the need for change.

Boosting Transparency for Ballot Measures and Political Ads in California

California lawmakers passed key measures this year, backed by MapLight and led by our partners at the California Clean Money Campaign, that will improve transparency for voters and help reveal who’s financially supporting the measures and candidates on their ballots. The Ballot DISCLOSE Act mandates that a short list of supporters and opponents of ballot measures will be shown on the ballot itself, providing meaningful transparency to guide voters’ decisions without sifting through hundreds of pages of information. Additionally, California lawmakers passed the Disclosure Clarity Act to make California the first state to require online political banner and graphic ads to clearly list their top funders. MapLight supported both bills, which together maintain the state’s position as a leader in campaign finance transparency.

Bringing Fair Elections to Oakland MapLight developed and passed the Oakland Fair Elections Act, making Oakland the second city in the nation after Seattle, Washington to have public funding of elections through democracy dollars. MapLight co-founded and co-led the coalition that earned the victory, with nearly three-quarters of voters approving the measure.

The new law will allow every resident of Oakland, regardless of their income level, the means to support candidates of their choice, and ensures that candidates can run for office without being beholden to big campaign donors. The victory in Oakland builds on MapLight’s previous success bringing public funding of elections to Berkeley in 2016.

Providing Voters with Comprehensive Voting Information

Through Voter’s Edge California, our nonpartisan voter guide in partnership with the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, we served an astounding 2.2 million people who visited the guide to make informed decisions about the California primary and general elections. Voter’s Edge users can explore candidates' priorities, endorsements and top donors, as well as see ballot measure explanations and campaign funding.

In surveys, more than three quarters of Voter’s Edge users reported that they would vote for more offices and leave fewer choices blank because of the information in the guide, while more than 90 percent said the guide made them feel more confident about making the right choices on Election Day.

Modernizing Campaign Finance Records for the City and County of Denver, Colorado

MapLight launched SearchLight Denver in 2022, a new electronic filing system to modernize Denver’s campaign finance records for public access and ensure ease of use for candidates, campaigns, and the media. The application includes reporting functions for campaigns, and also provides a dashboard that displays campaign contributions and funding information clearly to website visitors and the media. Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul D. López called SearchLight Denver “one of the most advanced systems for a municipality in the country, bringing everything into one place, where it’s transparent, searchable, and current.”

We made important progress in 2022 towards creating a stronger, healthier democracy and protecting the public interest. We look forward to building on that success in the year to come.

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