You can now donate to the Citizens Election Fund in Howard County…the following press release was released today:

January 9, 2019

Media Contact:

Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412

Howard County Executive Ball Opens Donations to the Citizens’ Election Fund 

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced today that residents will now be able to donate to the Citizens’ Election Fund when they pay their quarterly water and sewer bills. When bills for the first of twelve billing districts arrive in the mail, residents will find a check box on the bill to make a $3 donation to the fund or can go online to https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Finance/Citizens-Election-Fund to contribute any other amount.

“As a member of the Howard County Council, I, along with a majority of the Council, supported the option for candidates competing for County Executive and County Council offices to utilize public financing,” said Ball. “The voters of Howard County agreed via referendum in the 2016 General Election. Since the passage of the referendum, I helped ensure, through the establishment of the Citizens’ Election Fund, a process that would be accessible, transparent and fair to all candidates and contributors. I am proud that we are at the stage of making this fund a reality. I want to thank the Department of Finance for its hard work to allow our residents various ways to donate. I encourage Howard County residents to donate and provide more opportunities for a greater diversity of candidates to participate in our local elections and government.”

The Citizens’ Election Fund was established through legislation in 2017, along with the creation of a Commission to oversee the fund. The fund will be available to candidates during the 2022 election cycle. The Commission will be established by May 2019.

The Citizens’ Election Fund is a voluntary program for small donor financing of local campaigns. Candidates choose to participate and accept the conditions associated with public campaign funds. By accepting these funds, candidates agree to forgo private contributions from political action committees, corporations, labor organizations or state and local central committees of any political party. Public contribution funds may only be used for expenses incurred for the election.

To participate, a candidate for County Executive must be certified with the State Board of Elections by collecting at least 500 qualifying contributions of $250 or less for a minimum of $40,000. The maximum public contribution available to county executive candidates is $700,000.

Similarly, candidates for County Council must be certified with the State Board of Elections by collecting at least 125 qualifying contributions of $250 or less for a minimum of $10,000. The maximum public contribution available to council candidates is $85,000. 

Howard County Council Chairperson Christiana Mercer Rigby said, “The Citizens’ Election Fund is a great way to encourage people of all walks of life to participate in our electoral system. The Fund ensures that our democratic process is fueled by community support rather than the large campaign contributions of special interests.” 

“The Citizens’ Election Fund is an excellent opportunity for residents of Howard County to participate in their local elections,” added Howard County Council Vice Chairperson Opel Jones. “In 2016, I supported the referendum because it promotes a more diverse, fair, and equal financial opportunity for residents to run for public office. The Citizens’ Election Fund is an inclusive initiative that will continue to make Howard County one of the most desired counties in Maryland to live.” 

Additional information about the Citizens Donation Fund can be found online at https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Finance/Citizens-Election-Fund

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I have been on the fence about the fund…I see the good it can do by opening up elections to additional candidates…and I love that aspect of it…but still gets to me a bit using tax dollars to support candidates running for office. Tax dollars that could go to support schools, teachers, fire, police, roads, transportation, low income housing and a variety of other things funded with local tax dollars.

I will be watching closely in 2022 to see how much of the funds are used by candidates and if it makes a significant impact on local elections.

I will also be VERY interested to see how much money the fund gets from donations. Can’t wait to hear back from the county on the results of the voluntary donations.

Have thoughts on this topic? Let me know in the comments.

Scott E

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