Oakland, California, passed a measure that gives residents taxpayer-funded "Democracy Dollars" to donate to political campaigns in a bid to increase voter turnout and to broaden campaign opportunities to candidates who lack deep financial resources.
"We deserve a government that prioritizes the needs of Oakland residents, rather than wealthy special interests," Fair Elections Oakland says on its website. "We need to know that our local elected officials are fighting for us—that they’re working to create affordable housing, improve our schools, and keep the streets safe—instead of helping out their wealthy campaign funders."
Characterized by the San Francisco Chronicle this week as an "under the radar measure," the bill was supported by 74% of voters in the Nov. 8 election. The Fair Elections Act, placed on the ballot as Measure W, requires the city to send adult residents, including non-U.S. citizens who hold Green Cards, four $25 vouchers every two years to be donated to local political campaigns.
The measure will be funded by the city’s general fund, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and will total at about $4 million per election cycle.
To qualify for "Democracy Dollars," candidates must first show they received a certain number of traditional cash and/or electronic donations from voters. The "Democracy Dollars" are not actual cash but rather a transfer of money from a city account, and can only be donated to city elections, such as candidates running for mayor or school board.
Oakland is the second city in the nation to adopt such a program, following in the footsteps of Seattle.
Seattle approved its version of the "Democracy Dollars" voucher program in 2017. Voters are able to redeem the $100 of funds by writing a candidate’s name on the voucher and returning it to the city or giving it directly to the candidate, Vox reported after voters received their first batch of vouchers.
A recent study on the Seattle program, conducted by the University of Washington, found the number of those contributing to campaigns has risen by 350%, while the number of candidates in local elections increased by 86%.
"It has increased participation in lesser areas in Seattle, and voter turnout from communities of color," the executive director of Oakland Rising Liz Suk told the San Francisco Chronicle. Oakland Rising was one of the local groups that sponsored Measure W.
The leader of another group that supported the Oakland measure said it would help candidates who lack funds to actually make a run for office and win.
"We’re seeking to help candidates run for office and win, who would be great elected officials but don’t have access to wealth," says Daniel Newman, co-founder and president of Maplight, told Fast Company earlier this month.
"If you want to run for office in the U.S., one of the first questions that people ask you is not what’s your experience [or] what’s your community support—but, how much money will you raise?" Newman added.
Fox News Digital reached out to the City of Oakland regarding the measure but did not hear back by time of publication.