Clean Elections Big Theme in 2015 Elections

Some of the most important outcomes of the 2015 election are the Clean Election referendums passed by voters. Clearly, citizens are tired of big money controlling – and threatening – our democracy.

Seattle’s Democracy Vouchers

Perhaps the most intriguing idea passed in Seattle, where voters approved the use of "Democracy Vouchers." Why? Because just 0.3% of the city’s population donates half the money in local politics.

Initiative 122, passed 60-40, applies to city elections. Every citizen will receive four $25 vouchers per election to use as campaign donations. But the money will only be released  to candidates that agree to the rules: they must accept contribution and spending limits detailed in the law and participate in three debates. It also prohibits elected officials and high-level staff from lobbying city government for three years after leaving office.

Advocates believe the initiative will incentivize candidates to spend more time with voters instead of focusing on special-interest donors.

Washington voters also approved the most comprehensive wildlife trafficking law of any state, 71-29. It severely restricts trade of body parts of 10 endangered animals: elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, pangolins, leopards, cheetahs, sharks, rays and marine turtles.  

Next, backers will introduce the referendum in Oregon. Last month, California passed legislation banning sales of ivory, as did New Jersey and New York in 2014. On the federal level, Republicans and the gun lobby are preventing a final rule that would ban ivory trade in the US. China also announced it will halt sales of ivory.

Elections 2015

Ohio took on gerrymandering, voting to ban it by amending the state’s constitution. Going forward, a bipartisan commission will determine legislative districts and the minority party will have a greater say. It would be better for these commissions to be apolitical, but it’s a start. And while this initiate only applies to state elections, it passed with about 70% of the vote, laying the groundwork for a referendum that extends to congressional districts.

Maine voters strengthened the state’s publicly funded elections, created by the Maine Clean Elections Act in 1996. The new law bolsters financing for the Clean Election Fund, increases penalties for violations of campaign finance disclosure rules, and requires donors to be disclosed in their political ads.

Jefferson County, Colorado had its biggest school board election ever, as voters threw out three Tea Party members backed by Koch Brother money. They wanted to change the history curriculum to be "more patriotic" as part of their right-wing agenda to privatize schools.

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