by Taylor Stronsky
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Baltimore County Fair Elections and others met Thursday to discuss “Question A: Citizens’ Election Fund System” on the ballot in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Question A is one of 10 questions voters must decide. The Citizens’ Election Fund System’s purpose is to level the campaign field for new candidates in Baltimore County, officials explained. This will help the candidates focus on the people and the issues at hand instead of worrying about raising money.
The funding system will keep big corporations and high-spending businesses out of campaign fundraising, and will operate with small donations from individuals. By doing this it will give everyone a voice and expand opportunities to run for office, officials said.
The program will cost an estimated $4 million, and there will be regulations that must be followed by participants and others.
Tierra Bradford, policy manager for Common Cause Maryland, said that in previous elections, from the 2015-2018, candidates for County Council raised about $700,000 on average, while the candidates for County Executive raised about $1 million on average.
“Pretty costly and intimidating,” she said. “The winner raised over $2 million for that seat.”
To run for office under the new system, candidates will have to meet the qualifying requirements like having a solid backing from people. The would be allowed the only accept donations ranging from $150 to $250 from individuals. The small donations would be matched on a sliding scale, and will only be matched if the donation is from Baltimore County, officials said.
“It’s turning small dollars into bigger dollars,” said Bradford.
This same program has been successful in other counties, such as Montgomery County, officials said.
Rishi Shah, a Maryland PIRG associate, said on average candidates who qualified for the Montgomery County Program received nearly twice as many contributions from individuals than candidates who did not participate in the program, $850 vs. $434.
Baltimore County Councilman Israel “Izzy” Patoka of District 2, shared some of his experiences from when he was running for his position.
“Running is the hardest thing I’ve done,” Patoka said. “I was out funded and had a campaign budget.”
Patoka added that this program will broaden the field of candidates.
If approved on Nov. 3, officials said the Citizens’ Election Fund System won’t go into effect until the year 2026.