Integrity in our Elections Ordinance

Elections must depend upon the Voters, not the Funders.

Publicly funded elections have been around for a long time and operate in more than 28 states and almost all other democratic countries. The Supreme Court supports public financing as long as the program is voluntary – candidates can elect to stick with private financing if they choose. Experiences in other cities and states show that 83% of candidates choose the public financing system. Here’s how it works:

• Democracy Vouchers: a $20 Democracy Voucher, much like a gift card, is sent to registered voters in the city of SLO on or about July 1st, the filing date for candidates. That card can be “swiped” during a face-to-face interaction between a voter and a candidate or at a campaign event for the mayoral or city council elections. Voters have the freedom to divide the $20 among as many candidates as they wish. The city reimburses candidates for incurred campaign expenses up to the amount assigned to that candidate by voters.

• Disclosure: Political speech is protected, but the ordinance requires electronic disclosure to the City Clerk’s office of any campaign-related expenditure over $500 from individuals or organizations within 24 hours. Anonymous actors, often from out of the area, wishing to influence our elections, must report their spending, divulging who they are so we may consider their motives.

• Citizens Ethics Panel: The ordinance empowers a citizen’s panel to receive, evaluate and report alleged violations to the City Attorney’s office within 30 days.

Funding for the program, should come from the city’s general fund and is estimated to be less than one half of one percent of the city’s overall budget during an election cycle. Insuring integrity in our democracy is no different than maintaining the roads and sidewalks of our community and this program encourages greater participation from citizens.

Citizens Congress partnered with the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. and other election law experts in drafting this ordinance specifically to the needs of San Luis Obispo. Our ordinance is presently unique, but could easily be a model for cities all across America. Both major cities like L.A. and New York and small cities like Santa Fe, New Mexico and Tallahassee, Florida have public financing. Seattle, Washington recently approved a similar campaign financing initiative by 60% of the vote.

Click this link to read the ordinance proposal and then email your support to the City Council at: emailcouncil@slocity.org

The City Council will be listening to the concerns of citizens at their goal setting hearing in January of 2017. We urge you to show your support for this ordinance at this meeting.

San Luis Obispo would be the first in the nation to adopt our unique, comprehensive Democracy Voucher program. Reform always starts at the local level. We have the chance to move campaign reform forward to the county, state, and even nationally by enacting it locally. Just as we led the way with indoor smoking bans and farmers markets, we could be a national leader in the movement to strengthen our democracy.

Elections must depend upon the Voters, not the Funders.

Click to download and read ordinance (PDF)