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VOTERS IN MAINE, SEATTLE APPROVE INITIATIVES TO FIGHT BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS

On Tuesday, clean election ballot initiatives in Maine and Seattle passed by referendum, putting both localities at the forefront of a nationwide movement to empower regular voters and reduce the influence of special interests and mega-donors in elections. OSPIRG's sister organizations in Washington and across the U.S. aided the passage of both ballot initiatives, mobilizing canvassers and organizers in Maine and Seattle to increase voter turnout. Maine’s Clean Elections Initiative and Seattle’s Honest Elections Initiative passed with strong support.

“Americans across the political spectrum want action to stop the flood of big money in our elections, and this Tuesday, voters took matters into their own hands,” said OSPIRG executive director Dave Rosenfeld. “The clean election measures that passed in Maine and Seattle make regular constituents a top priority in our elections, and that’s a major win for voters. Coast-to-coast, these victories are a big step forward in putting average Americans back in control of our democracy.”

Maine’s ballot initiative strengthens the state’s Clean Elections Act by offering candidates increased public funding after they raise a qualifying number of small contributions. The measure also strengthens campaign finance disclosure laws, requiring outside groups to list their top funders on political ads.

Seattle’s Honest Elections Initiative creates a first-in-the-nation program that provides registered Seattle voters with “democracy vouchers” that can be donated to local candidates. The new law also lowers the cap on contributions to local candidates and prohibits companies with large city contracts from contributing in Seattle elections.

PIRG staff supported get-out-the-vote campaigns in Maine and Seattle to help drive voter turnout on Election Day and pass the clean election ballot initiatives. In addition to mobilizing support in Maine and Seattle, OSPIRG and its sister organizations around the country are advocating for similar small donor empowerment measures across the U.S..

“Seattle elections should be decided by Seattle voters, not an elite group of donors and special interests,” said Bruce Speight, Executive Director of WashPIRG, a state affiliate of OSPIRG. “When voters passed the Honest Elections Initiative this Tuesday, they put Seattle at the forefront of a national movement to empower regular voters and reclaim our democracy. This is a major victory for Seattle residents, and it sends a message that voters across the country can make a powerful difference when they stand up to big-money politics.”

The passage of clean election initiatives in Maine and Seattle comes on the heels of another victory in Montgomery County, Maryland, which passed strong small donor empowerment measures in 2014. Montgomery County’s empowerment program resembles New York City’s small donor program, which has been in place for years.

As part of its effort to raise the profile of small donor empowerment programs at the local and national level,OSPIRG Foundation published a study this September exploring the impact of proposed small donor programs on the 2016 presidential race.

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