Flying under the radar in the red-blue drama of this week’s off-year elections were a series of election-reform laws that passed on both coasts — measures that campaign-finance reform advocates hail as turning points in their movement. In Maine, 55 percent of voters agreed to strengthen their two-decade-old Clean Elections Act by boosting public funding for campaigns and putting in place penalties for those who break campaign finance law. In Seattle, 60 percent of voters put in place a first-in-the-nation “democracy voucher” system. Starting in 2017, citizens will get four $25 vouchers they can hand out to the campaign or campaigns of their choice. (It was modeled off a successful 2014 Tallahassee initiative giving local campaign donors there a $25 tax credit rebate.) Both were framed by supporters as attempts to push back against a 2010 Supreme Court decision, known as Citizens United, and subsequent decisions that allow anyone or any corporation or union to spend as much as they want on elections.
In San Francisco, nearly 75 percent of voters put in a new lobbying reform law proposed by the city’s Ethics Commission. It would require anyone spending more than $2,500 in a month on lobbying activities to register with the commission.
Election and campaign finance reform advocates argue Tuesday’s results suggest that local government reform movements have the power to push back against the most powerful forces in politics right now: Billionaires.