September 30, 2021 Baltimore County
The Baltimore County Fair Election Fund Work Group today released its final report detailing a proposed structure and guidelines for creating Baltimore County’s first public financing system for candidates for County Council and County Executive.
Establishing a Fair Election Fund is a key priority for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who has called for a public financing option for local elections before taking office.
“Baltimore County residents deserves a Fair Election Fund to help empower a more diverse group of candidates, level the playing field, and strengthen our local elections for years to come,” Olszewski said. “I thank all the members of our work group for their commitment to this concept and for developing thoughtful recommendations which will inform our efforts to pass legislation formally establishing a public financing system for Baltimore County elections.”
In his first month in office, Olszewski announced a package of reforms to improve accountability in County government and strengthen ethical standards, including a proposed charter amendment to create a system for public financing for candidates starting with the 2026 election cycle.
The Charter amendment passed the County Council with bipartisan support in 2019 and was overwhelmingly approved by voters during the 2020 election.
In March 2021, Olszewski created the Fair Election Fund Work Group to convene a bipartisan group of stakeholders in order to review best practices for equalizing access to the electoral process and to propose recommendations for instituting a Fair Election Fund System in Baltimore County.
The Work Group’s recommendations released today include:
- Create a maximum individual contribution limit of $250 for candidates participating in the Fair Election Fund system.
- Require contributors to be Baltimore County residents in order for contributions to qualify towards the threshold required to receive matching funds.
- For County Executive candidates: set a threshold of at least $40,000 in qualifying contributions from at least 500 contributors before allowing access to matching funds from the Fair Election fund.
- For County Council candidates: set a threshold of at least $10,000 in qualifying contributions from at least 125 contributors before allowing access to matching funds from the Fair Election fund.
- For County Executive candidates: place a limit of $750,000 in total matching funds per election.
- For County Council candidates: place a limit of $80,000 in total matching funds per election.
- Create a tiered matching fund system to incentivize small dollar contributions for candidates.
- Set limits for funds that can be contributed directly by the candidate, their spouse, or adult members of their immediate family for candidates participating in the Fair Election Fund system.
- Establish a Fair Election Fund Commission consisting of county residents who would make recommendations to the County to ensure the Fund is solvent ahead of each election cycle.
In the coming months, the Olszewski administration will introduce legislation based on the Work Group’s recommendations.
The Fair Election Fund Work Group’s full report is available here.