If we cannot keep big money out of politics, we need to get more small money in.
Vermont has had a public financing system for certain races for twenty years. But it hasn’t been used for years and isn’t considered a viable option by many candidates.
That’s why VPIRG is advocating for new approaches to encourage candidates to raise more small-dollar contributions, increase voter participation and provide the means for more voters to donate to their preferred candidates.
We support legislation like S.32, which makes minor corrections to the current system while studying ways to improve or replace it, such as Seattle’s successful Democracy Voucher program. S.32 passed the Senate in March of 2019 and continues to await action in the House Government Operations Committee.
How Would Democracy Vouchers Work?
Democracy Vouchers create an additional incentive for candidates to go out into their communities and court grassroots donations. Each election cycle, every registered Vermont voter would receive $25 worth of “Democracy Dollars,” which they could then donate to the local politician(s) of their choice.
- Increase voter engagement and participation
- Encourage candidates to court small dollar grassroots contributions in their districts
- Provide the means for more voters to contribute to their preferred candidates
A template for success…
Seattle was the first city in the U.S. to use Democracy Vouchers, and the success they have seen is promising. In Seattle:
- 95% of Democracy Voucher users went on to vote in the general election, compared to just 43% of other Seattle residents
- 5 out of the 6 candidates to run in general elections received the vast majority of their funding from Democracy Vouchers
- Over 20,000 Seattle residents used their Democracy Vouchers in 2017. 88% of them had never made a political contribution before, and the rate of individual contributions more than doubled