Opening up campaign finance with democracy vouchers

A policy kit on how states can establish a democracy voucher campaign finance system to fight corruption and increase participation

Opening up campaign finance with democracy vouchers

Today, DPN is launching our Democracy Vouchers policy kit — an open resource for legislators, activists, experts, and journalists to learn more about how states can establish a democracy voucher campaign finance system — in which residents are issued vouchers to 'donate' to candidates of their choice — to fight corruption and increase participation.

Read DPN's Democracy Vouchers policy kit

Money in politics has become a source of great pessimism. Anyone who's worked in politics knows the experience of hearing a great idea, only to have it immediately shot down because the banks, insurance companies, or some other group with undue influence wouldn't like it. Constantly hearing news of billionaire donors, Super PACs, and politicians dialing for dollars makes the general public more cynical and disengaged, empowering the wealthy few even further.

I first heard of Democracy Vouchers while it was being debated in Seattle in 2015. It excited me because it was fundamentally different from most other attempts to reign in money in politics. Proponents acknowledged that Citizens United and other decisions placed serious barriers in front of normal campaign finance reform, but they didn't become cynical — they just created a new way of solving the problem.

A democracy vouchers program is a campaign finance system in which all residents are issued vouchers that they can donate to political candidates who, in turn, redeem them for public campaign funds. Democracy vouchers help democratize the campaign finance process by both: empowering ordinary citizens to participate more in the financing of political campaigns; and empowering political candidates to run for office without relying on — and spending as much time courting — wealthy donors.

A lot of popular ideas already exist to fix the problems with our government, our economy, and our culture. It’s a shame to think of how many of them will not get a hearing because the rich and power continue gatekeeping who can raise enough money to have a shot at winning elections. What I love about the democracy vouchers model is that it empowers any candidate to go around the gatekeepers by raising campaign money from whatever network they have, no matter how economically disadvantaged.

If you are a legislator, activist, expert, or journalist looking to help turn democracy vouchers from idea into policy, check out (and share) our kit — and please reach out!