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  • Daniel G. Newman

Victory in Oakland: Democracy Dollars Wins!

Illustration showing voters happy about the Honest Elections Seattle initiative

Art by George O'Connor

Voters in Oakland, California today overwhelmingly passed the Oakland Fair Elections Act, which will create a “democracy dollars” system of public funding of elections. With democracy dollars, each Oakland resident will receive democracy vouchers worth $100. Residents can give these vouchers to city council and mayor candidates, and the candidates then exchange the vouchers for public funds to run their campaigns.

In an era of money-dominated politics, Oakland voters showed the way forward today. The democracy dollars program gives every citizen the means to back candidates of their choice. Candidates can run for office and win being focused on the voters, rather than big campaign donors. Oakland will soon be electing the best leaders, regardless of whether they are the best fundraisers.

Five years ago, MapLight co-founded the coalition that led to this victory today. Since then MapLight has co-led the effort alongside groups like Common Cause California, the ACLU of Northern California, the League of Women Voters of Oakland, Oakland Rising, Bay Rising, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

In Seattle, which has had democracy vouchers since 2017, candidates can run for office and win without depending on special interest money. All residents can contribute to candidates, regardless of their personal level of wealth, which encourages candidates to campaign in all areas of the city –not just the high-income areas. The Seattle program increased the number of small donations as well as the number of candidates, providing voters greater choice. There’s more about democracy vouchers–in comic form–in this excerpt from Unrig: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy.

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