If you’re from Maine or Seattle, you’re probably used to high-quality seafood, lovely forests and the smell of the ocean on the wind. There’s now one more thing that could soon link residents of the northern corners: meaningful campaign finance reform.
Come Tuesday, November 3, Seattleites and Mainers will have the chance to enact initiatives that would empower citizens to more readily participate in their democracy. These measures represent an important step forward in the world of money-in-politics reform.
Maine voters will see Question 1, the “Clean Elections” Initiative, on their ballots. If approved, the initiative would strengthen Maine’s public financing system, implement harsher penalties for violating campaign disclosure laws and force outside groups to reveal the names of their top donors, closing the “dark money” loophole.
The coalition spearheading the reform effort is Maine Citizens for Clean Elections. The initiative is well-supported locally and nationally (including by Issue One!), and you can read some spirited opinion pieces and editorials here: the Bangor Daily News, Alan Caron in the Portland Press-Herald and former Senate candidate Shenna Bellows in the Sun Journal.
If you’re registered to vote in the Emerald City, you’ve already received your ballot in the mail. I-122 would address a whole palette of reform issues – it would lower contribution limits, increase disclosure requirements, institute a revolving door ban and restrict contractor campaign donations. The measure’s beating heart, the one that could “radically transform the influence of money in politics,” is a new system of $100 “democracy vouchers,” which would be sent to every registered voter for use in funding municipal campaigns.
Honest Elections Seattle led the initiative approval process and support has flooded in. Read endorsements from popular weekly The Stranger and blog Seattleish and an overview of the issue in the Seattle Times.
Initiatives like the ones on the ballots in Maine and Seattle offer concrete reforms to give everyone a voice in a democracy that seems increasingly out of reach for those without means.