Voter-Owned Elections

Hear Mayor Potter on Voter-Owned Elections during his State of the City address in front of the Voter-Owned Elections. Dial-up version. Fast-speed connection version.

Portland’s Voter-Owned Elections Ordinance Under Attack
Big-money political players filed an initiative to overturn Portland’s comprehensive campaign finance system that opens up elections to fair competition and holds politicians accountable to community interests rather than special interests.

Decisive Voter-Owned Elections Win in Albuquerque
Portland’s Voter-Owned Elections ordinance is part of a growing trend. Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, joined Portland and six states in adopting full public financing reform. The vote was a decisive 69 percent “yes.” Click here for more on the Albuquerque victory. Voters “get it” that the current system is broken. Voter-Owned Elections are a cost-effective and proven reform that limits spending and levels the playing field.

What We Need Now
First, please write supportive letters to the editor to the Oregonian and other newspapers so they keep hearing that Portlanders are in favor of Voter-Owned Elections. Mention the Albquerque victory or click here to use some of the inspirational City Council comments on Voter-Owned Elections. Looking for more? Follow this link for other letter ideas and contact information.

Second, please sign on as a Voter-Owned Elections Supporter. We need your continued help to defend Voter-Owned Elections and to ensure effective implementation of this new option for Portland voters.
Yes, Keep me posted…Sign up here.

A Sampling of City Council Statements on Voter Owned Elections
Commissioner Sam Adams at April 7, 2005 hearing:
On the funding issue… forgoing just one unnecessary tax abatement could more than pay for the costs [of Voter-Owned Elections]

Commissioner Dan Saltzman at May 18, 2005 hearing:
I’ve become convinced that it
[Voter-Owned Elections] is a good idea and a wise use of public resources. I’ve come to understand that our current way of financing political campaigns serve to exclude large numbers of our citizens, particularly women and minorities, from the political process.

Mayor Tom Potter at May 18, 2005 hearing:
[I]’m an anomaly. I don’t think everybody can [run under self-imposed contribution limits]. And so I really support this [Voter-Owned Elections] ordinance and resolution, because it is so important to our future.

Commissioner Erik Sten at May 18, 2005 hearing:
Typically, 80 percent of the time a candidate spends is fundraising, and the vast majority of that is asking for large dollars. I’m yet to find anybody, literally, who’s told me that’s a good system…[that]’s really in line with the basic fundamental premise of one person, one vote.

Click here for more City Council comments.

Quick Overview
Voter-Owned Elections is a proven reform system that is changing politics as usual in Maine and Arizona. Now, residents of Portland will have a chance to see how public financing for candidate campaigns will change how City Hall operates — and who operates within City Hall.

May 11 and May 18 Hearing Summaries
Portland heard thoughtful discussion and clear expressions of support for Voter-Owned Elections from the City Council this morning. Debate focused on the timing and mechanism to ensure voter input on a referral timed to provide Portland with adequate first-hand experience with this reform option. A good amendment calling for a November 2010 referral passed. This amendment delayed the final vote until May 18th. On the 18th Voter Owned Elections was adopted on a decisive 4-1 vote.

Special thanks as well to Auditor Gary Blackmer and Commissioner Erik Sten, the ordinance sponsors. Finally thanks to Comissioners Sam Adams, Randy Leonard, and Dan Saltzman whose contributions made the ordinance stronger. This is a great victory for Portland. The only no vote was from Commissioner Leonard who expressed strong support for the idea but voted no because he disagreed with the timing and mechanism to ensure a popular vote.

April 7th Hearing Summary
Supporters of public funding for candidate campaigns won an important victory in Portland. More than 100 grassroots Portland activists packed City Hall on April 7, 2005,to make a strong show of support for bringing Voter-Owned Elections to the city. In addition to eight panelists who gave invited testimony, the Portland City Council heard from testifiers who spoke over two-to-one in favor of the ordinance.

At the hearing the council moved the ordinance, with a technical amendment limiting administrative costs, to a second reading. Mayor Potter and Commissioners Adams and Sten clearly signaled their “yes” vote at the final hearing. Commissioner Leonard supports the idea but requested that the second hearing be in May because of an interest in ensuring coordination with the budget development process. Commissioner Saltzman was absent with the flu, but there are definite signs of support from his office, as well.

Why do we need Voter-Owned Elections?
What is a voter-owned election system?
History of city efforts and final report and ordinance
How can I help spread the word?
How are these reforms working elsewhere?
50 Questions People are Asking about Voter-Owned Elections
Portland Voter-Owned Elections in the News
I’m ready now! Sign me up!

Why do we need Voter-Owned Elections?
Voter-Owned Elections is a sensible reform that is proving itself as a viable alternative to “business as usual” in Maine and Arizona politics. Candidates have a new way to run for office without big money.

  • Voters gain more choices as candidates can run for office based on leadership skills and community support rather than fundraising ability.
  • Voters are the focus of campaigns – not contributors and fundraising.
  • Primary considerations in city council decisions can be community concerns without even the perception that special interests win over public interests.

Portland politics are out of balance.

  • Since 1970, the highest spending candidate for city office has won 87 percent of the time.
  • 56 percent of campaign contributions to City Council winners come from only 10 of Portland’s 43 zip codes.
  • Only 5 percent of contributions came in small donations of $50 or less.

Click here for Portland campaign contribution data and more information on money in Portland politics.

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What is a voter-owned election system?
Voter-owned elections is a comprehensive system that provides candidates a voluntary option for a new way to run for office without big money, special interest contributions. Candidates agree to:

  • Collect a large numer of $5 qualifying contributions to demonstrate community support
  • Reject private money contributions
  • Limit campaign spending
  • Agree to comply with strict administrative rules

In return, participating candidates receive limited amounts of campaign dollars from a publicly financed fund for use only for allowed campaign expenses. Even more important, Portlanders will have Voter-Owned Elections.

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History of city efforts and final report and ordinance
Portland City Auditor Gary Blackmer and City Commissioner Erik Sten worked for months on the Voter-Owned Elections ordinance. The first hearing was in April, 2004, a technical committee provided feedback in July 2004, and a City Council work session was held in August of 2004. A report and initial ordinance draft was available for review last fall. Based on public input, a revised ordinance was released for review in March of 2005. Hearings were held in April and May with the final 4-1 vote occuring on May 18, 2005.
Read the Auditor’s report and final ordinance here. (This will open a page in another website. Use your browser’s “back” button to return.)

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How can I help spread the word?

  • Contact the Vote NO Power Grab campaign and let them know you’re on board and willing to help spread the word about the benefits to voters of Voter-Owned Election reform and to help defend this new option.
  • Write letters to the editor — check out these points and contact information.

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How are these reforms working elsewhere?
This campaign finance reform option is working great in Arizona and Maine, providing:

  • more voter choice,
  • campaigns that focus on constituents rather than contributors, and
  • elected officials who are owned by voters rather than campaign contributors and lobbyists.
    Click here for Maine and Arizona information.

An Arizona Republican has become a staunch reform supporter. Marc Spitzer was a successful legislative candidate under the old system. He ran under the new reform option for Arizona’s Corporations Commissioner (like our state public utilities commission). Spitzer says he understands the reluctance to embrace this idea, but that the benefits are too great to pass up. “The question shouldn’t be how can you afford to do this, but how can you afford not to.”
Read these stories about Marc Spitzer.

If an Arizona Republican has the political courage to support Voter-Owned campaign finance reform, surely we can expect the same from the Portland City Council. Click here to join our Voter-Owned Portland Elections education campaign.

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50 Questions People are Asking about Voter-Owned Elections
(Opens a new page with lots more answers to many more questions.)

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Portland Voter-Owned Elections in the News
(Check out this page of links of what’s been written in the Portland papers.)