Last week, I joined residents, activists, and politicians in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall to call for fair elections in New York State. This was one in a series of town halls that happened across the state.
Fair elections are about lawmakers being accountable to their constituents. They are about politicians being responsive to the needs of ordinary voters. They are about shifting Albany’s focus away from donors with deep pockets and redirecting that focus to regular people.
Shockingly, less than 1% of what is spent on elections for state offices comes from NY residents. It is less than half a percent. Instead, politicians rely on (and favor) large contributors – corporations and outside groups.
The NYC Multiple Match Model
The financing system used in New York City was repeatedly used as an example during the meeting I attended when discussing how public financing could work throughout the state.
When political candidates opt into NYC’s public financing program, they agree to spending limits and extra disclosures in exchange for an ingenious multiple match system. Under this system, small donations (up to $175) are matched by public funds at a 6:1 ratio. This magnifies the impact of small donations. For example, a $100 donation becomes $700.
Since New York City adapted fair elections, 37% of donations to candidates that participate in the system is made of up small donations of $250 or less. At the state level, in comparison, less than 5% of donations are for $250 or smaller. This is not only a big difference in the sense of small rather than large donations, but in other ways like:
- who a representative schedules the time to meet with,
- who is even able to run for office, and
- what issues are perceived as important by a lawmaker.
Three Things New Yorkers Can Do
I am certain that you are dying to show your support for fair elections – here are three ideas:
- Sign this petition.
- Participate in upcoming actions and events.
- Call the decision makers listed below with the appropriate message.
Call Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and tell him:
Thank you for sponsoring Campaign Finance Reform bills in the past; please update and re-introduce your bill and bring Fair Elections to a vote on the Assembly floor right away!
Call Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and urge him:
New Yorkers demand Fair Elections reform this year. Bring the Fair Elections bill to the Senate floor for a vote this spring!
Call Governor Cuomo and tell him:
Thank you for supporting Fair Elections in your State of the State address – please push our legislature to get it done this spring!