from Gail Wallace, VP Action
Last November over 74% of Oakland voters approved the Fair Elections Act, which would
enable more voters to support candidates for office and counter the influence of outside money and large donors. Among other reforms, the Act provides for all eligible Oakland residents to receive four $25 Democracy Dollars vouchers they can donate to the qualifying local candidates of their choice, boosting the power of small donors in Oakland elections. Click here for a video of the April 20 Democracy Dollars program sponsored by SPUR and LWVO.
The Act anticipated that Oakland would roll out Democracy Dollars in time for the 2024 election. However, the Mayor has proposed to postpone implementation until 2026, citing a fiscal emergency due to a historic budget shortfall. While the budget constraints are real, the Bay Area Political Equality Collective (BayPEC), including the League of Women Voters of Oakland, in tandem with the Public Ethics Commission, is urging the City to pilot the Democracy Dollars program in a limited but meaningful way in 2024. Several proposals that would do just that are being presented to City Council members as they consider their response to the Mayor’s budget proposal.
There are several reasons to advocate for starting now even if the initial implementation must be partial:
Without even a pilot, Oakland is left with no public financing for candidates since the Fair Elections Act revoked the prior Limited Public Financing Act.
2024 is the right cycle to initiate the program as it is a less complicated cycle than 2026 will be, which will include the mayoral race.
Piloting can provide invaluable information about processes that can then be expanded in 2026.
The League requests your help to urge your City Councilmember to push for *seed funding* that will enable Democracy Dollars to be piloted in the 2024 elections. Write or call your Council representative, or attend your Council representative’s public budget forum this month to advocate.