Oakland, California recently approved legislation to provide taxpayer-funded “Democracy Dollars” to residents to donate to political campaigns. The initiative aims to boost voter turnout and provide candidates with limited financial resources more opportunities to run for office.
The bill, described by the San Francisco Chronicle as an “under the radar measure,” was backed by 74% of voters on November 8th. The Fair Elections Act, listed as Measure W on the ballot, mandates that the city give adult residents, including foreign nationals, with Green Cards four $25 vouchers every two years to contribute to local political campaigns. The proposal will cost about $4 million each election cycle to be covered by the city’s general fund.
The Fair Elections Oakland website states, “We deserve a government that prioritizes the needs of Oakland residents, rather than wealthy special interests. We need to know that our local elected officials are fighting for us—that they’re working to create affordable housing, improve our schools, and keep the streets safe—instead of helping out their wealthy campaign funders.”
To be eligible for “Democracy Dollars,” candidates must demonstrate that they obtained a minimum number of traditional cash donations from voters and any electronic contributions. The “Democracy Dollars” can only be donated to local elections, such as a mayoral race or school board, and are not actual cash but rather a transfer of funds from a city account.
Oakland is the second city in the U.S. to implement such a program behind Seattle.