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WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, voters in states across the country passed ballot initiatives to empower residents and voters over wealthy interests in elections. The ballot initiatives which passed included measures to create a citizen-funded election program in Howard, County Maryland, measures to overturn Citizens United in California and Washington state, and a package of ethics, disclosure and campaign finance reforms in South Dakota.
“This year, voters across the country and across the political spectrum made it clear that ending big-money politics needs to be a top priority,” said Andre Delattre, Executive Director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “Americans want Congress to pass an amendment overturning Citizens United, but they aren’t going to wait on Congress to act. At the municipal level, and at the state level, voters are reshaping democracy with local initiatives that put control of our elections in the hands of everyday residents.”
In Howard County, Maryland, voters passed Question A, a ballot initiative that will create a citizen-funded election program to amplify the voice of everyday voters in local elections. The new program would match small constituent contributions with public funds for county council and county executive candidates who agree to turn down large and corporate contributions. Maryland PIRG played a leading role in advocating for Question A and helped to build a field operation knocking doors, calling voters, and talking to residents at early voting locations in the final weeks of the campaign.
In Washington state, voters supported I-735, a ballot initiative instructing federal legislators to support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. While ballots are still being counted in California, voters there appeared to pass proposition 59, a ballot initiative doing the same. In Speaker Paul Ryan's home of Rock County, Wisc., 86 percent of voters approved an anti-Citizens United resolution. CalPIRG supported the passage of proposition 59, and WashPIRG supported the passage of both I-735.
A package of democracy reform initiatives passed in South Dakota, including initiatives to strengthen campaign finance disclosure laws, create a statewide ethics commission, and limit lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.
Ballot measures placing limits on campaign contributions also passed in Missouri and Multnomah County, Oregon.
This year, Americans have made money in politics a top national concern. Seventy-eight percent of Americans, including a wide majority of both Republicans and Democrats believe that Citizens United should be overturned. Polling also shows that a large majority Americans believe that fundamental changes are needed in our campaign finance system to empower voters over large donors and special interests.
U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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