Strategy 1 Achieve Equality of Voice and Representation

Clean Election Laws

Strategy 1
Achieve Equality of Voice and Representation

Recommendation 1.7

Pass “clean election laws” for federal, state, and local elections through mechanisms such as public matching donation systems and democracy vouchers, which amplify the power of small donors.

Read in the Report

The Need

Where voice and representation are concerned, the American political landscape today is a struggle between ordinary voters and well-funded special interests.

Lately, regular voters have not been able to make their voices heard. One way to tilt the playing field back in favor of citizens is to amplify the power of small donors.

Percentage of Individual Contributions in Presidential Election Cycles
Source: The Atlantic

Three possible solutions

When it comes to empowering small donors, policymakers have a menu of options to choose from.

  • Public Matching Donation System
    In a public matching donation system, small donations to political campaigns are matched by the municipality or government in question—sometimes even with a multiple of the original donation. New York City, for example, has a public-financing system that matches small donations to candidates by a factor of six. A $10 donation from a New York City resident, therefore, is worth $70 in the candidate’s hands. In January 2020, lawmakers in New York State passed into law a public financing system modeled on that of New York City.
  • Democracy Vouchers 
    Democracy Vouchers are another, newer idea: citizens receive campaign-donation vouchers that they can then give to their preferred candidate to be redeemed as cash. Seattle has pioneered this approach. Residents of the city receive vouchers worth $100 that they can give to a candidate or candidates of their choice. So far, the results are promising: a 2017 report estimated that 84 percent of democracy-voucher donors in Seattle had never contributed to a political campaign before.
  • Public Financing of Campaigns 
    Yet another option is the public financing of campaigns. Today, fourteen states provide candidates with some form of some public financing, and some go so far as to offer full funding. Typically, in order to receive public financing, a candidate must commit not to accept large amounts of money from single groups or individuals. One benefit of public-financing systems is that they tend to support greater diversity, both among donors and among candidates.
1.7 Public Financing Elections.png
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

“You don’t get elected in a clean election environment by going and talking to a few big donors. You’ve got to go out, knock on a lot of doors, and collect a lot of five dollar cash contributions… which means you have to talk to people. And evidently, when you go knocking on doors, people will say things that might make you different than when you came in. That’s a good thing.”
—Dover-Foxcroft, Maine

Champions

Campaign Legal Center and Issue One and Take Back Our Republic and Faithful Democracy are committed to working to implement this recommendation in order to help reinvent American democracy for the 21st century.

Campaign Legal Center is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to reduce the influence of money in politics and to support unrestricted access to voting. CLC supports strong enforcement of United States campaign finance laws.

Issue One unites Republicans, Democrats, and independents to fix our broken political system. Our ReFormers Caucus of more than 200 former members of Congress, governors, and Cabinet officials is the largest bipartisan coalition of its kind ever assembled to advocate for an inclusive democracy where all voices are heard. 

Take Back Our Republic is a non-profit educating the public on conservative solutions for political reform. We are a non-partisan organization that advocates to ensure power and influence is returned to "We The People" instead of outside special interest groups. We use a grassroots approach for messaging that resonates with every ideological spectrum, especially conservatives, to fix the broken electoral system and restore American democracy.

Faithful Democracy is a multi-faith coalition of faith-based organizations and congregations who share the moral imperative of fixing our democratic systems. While our partners represent a diversity of beliefs and traditions, we unite around the common goal of creating a healthier, thriving democracy. 

See the full list of Our Common Purpose Champions.

In order to implement Recommendation 1.7 by 2026, the Commission proposes the following milestones to complete by year-end of:

2024

  • Federal legislation introduced with bipartisan sponsors

2026

  • Federal legislation passes
  • Fifteen additional municipalities pass clean election laws
  • Eight states, including two red states, pass clean election laws for state elections