zMaine Voters Pass Accountable Elections Ballot Measure

Democracy Initiative Organizations and Allies Issue Statements
Celebrating Victory for Democracy

Washington, DC – Yesterday, Mainers voted overwhelmingly to take back control of their elections. Citizen activists across the state joined together in a victory for democracy, passing with more than 55% of the vote the Question 1 ballot measure that restores clean and accountable elections while limiting the power of wealthy special interests. Democracy Initiative organizations, such as Every Voice, CWA, Sierra Club, US PIRG, Common Cause, LGBTQ Task Force, SEIU, Maine Education Association, Maine People’s Action, and others worked closely in concert with the state campaign to organize and turn out voters in a powerful display of collaboration on behalf of democracy.

Question 1 restored the 1996 Maine Clean Elections Act which originally created a robust public funding system for candidates running for statewide office. At its high point in the 2006 and 2008 elections, 81% of legislative candidates opted into this system, creating one of the most blue-collar legislatures in the country. However, in 2011, the Supreme Court weakened the law, and in 2012, the U.S. District Court of Maine struck down the matching provision and Governor LePage signed a law officially eliminating them.

Mainers have seen enough and taken back control of their elections. In addition to the matching funds, the newly-passed measure increases financial penalties for election law violations and increases transparency requirements.

Continue reading for statements of support from Democracy Initiative Endorsers and Allies:

From Larry Cohen, Democracy Initiative Chair:

“I am proud that the Democracy Initiative member groups stepped up together and that we were able to mobilize so many of our members to work for clean elections in Maine. Their efforts were instrumental in helping Mainers build a democracy that is of, by, and for the people. Congratulations particularly to Common Cause, Sierra Club, CWA, Every Voice, US PIRG, Friends of the Earth, National LGBTQ Task Force, Maine People’s Action, SEIU, Maine Education Association, and Public Citizen for making this DI priority a huge success.”

From Andrew Bossie, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Executive Director:

“Today Mainers sent a message loud and clear. We want transparency. We want a government accountable to everyday people. And, we want a strong public financing Clean Election law that puts voters in control of our democracy – not wealthy special interests and high paid lobbyists. With tonight’s victory – that’s exactly what we will get. This is a victory for democracy. A victory for the people, of the people, and by the people. Now it’s time for the legislature and the state to move forward with implementation.”

From Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-3):

In strengthening its clean election system, Maine is building a real and viable way to reduce the influence of wealthy and well-connected donors on our democracy. At the federal level, we’re looking to Maine as an example of how we can return to a government of, by and for the people.

From Chris Shelton, Communications Workers of America President:

“Across the country, voters took a stand for accountability, fairness and voter access in our political process.

“Members of the Communications Workers of America, a partner of the 59-organization Democracy Initiative, are committed to restoring government ‘of, by and for the people,’ not one bought and paid for by ultra-wealthy special interests.

“In Maine, voters approved Question 1, strengthening the state’s landmark Clean Elections system and small-dollar public financing of campaigns and making candidates more accountable to the voters, by requiring that outside groups disclose their top three donors on all political ads. In Maine, members of CWA Local 1400 joined Mainers for Accountable Elections and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections in building a grassroots campaign that publicized the issue and got people out to vote.”

From Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director:

This is a victory not only for Mainers, but for every person that wants a government that’s of, by, and for the people, and not big polluters. Maine voters set the bar for the rest of the country and declared that we must take back our elections from big-money campaign donors that are polluting our democracy and polluting our air and water.”

From Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director:

“Mainers made history once again by strengthening our state’s pioneering clean elections law. Thousands of Sierra Club Maine supporters voted to reign in the corrupting influence of big money on our democracy. Cleaner elections mean that our public officials will be more likely to represent the voters’ interests like protecting public health, and our environment and climate.”

From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President:

“As is their custom, Mainers are leading the way for the nation. In 1996, they adopted the first statewide system for public financing of elections. Their strong vote today for accountable elections further underscores their determination to make our democracy work for everyone; it reflects the sentiments of millions of Americans who are determined to rein in the power of big money and refocus our politics on issues important to citizens.  

“In approving Question 1, Maine has shifted the discussion about money in politics away from the problems caused by the Citizens United decision to a focus on how and when states will solve them. Mainers have determined that those who break the election laws will be held accountable, that future Maine voters will know who is spending money to influence votes, and that future candidates will be able to run and win without relying on big money donors.”

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:

“To believe in democracy and its ability to act on behalf of all Americans, people must have faith that their candidates are representing their interests and not those of major donors or organized allies. 

“Maine’s Accountable Elections Referendum, strongly supported by the Democracy Initiative and its endorsers, ensures that voters know the source of major campaign activity just before an election, and expands the opportunity for candidates with representative support to use public campaign funding to seek higher office in the state. Elections done openly, transparently and with participation of every person help create integrity and representation for all areas of society, and create a system that considers the disparate impact of major policy decisions. “

From Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President:

“We congratulate our Maine AFL-CIO and all their community partners in Maine for standing up for democracy, and taking a big step to get money out of politics.”

From Rachel Rye Butler, Greenpeace USA Democracy Campaigner:

“Yesterday’s election results are a victory for those working to put our democracy back in the hands of the people. Across the country, from Maine to Seattle, people are ready and taking action to ensure that every voice counts, not just those who can afford to buy elections. Voters are rejecting corporate control and standing up for a government that is truly of, by and for the people.”

From David Donnelly, Every Voice President & CEO:

“Maine voters went to the polls and sent a clear message that the time has come for bold solutions to raise the voices of everyday people in politics. With Washington, DC mired in gridlock and a presidential race focused on who can befriend the most billionaires, voters are taking matters into their own hands. States and cities across the nation will work to replicate this success.”

From Dan Smith, US PIRG Democracy Campaign Director:

“Americans across the political spectrum want action to stop the flood of big money in our elections, and this Tuesday, voters took matters into their own hands. The clean election measure that passed in Maine makes regular constituents a top priority in our elections, and that’s a major win for voters. Today’s victory sends a message to cities and states across the country: when local voters stand up to big-money politics, they can make a powerful difference.”

From Jonathan Fox, Friends of the Earth Senior Democracy Campaigner:

“Friends of the Earth has been working on the ground in Maine with Every Voice and Mainers for Accountable Elections, in support of the Yes on Question 1 campaign. This grassroots, bipartisan, citizen-driven campaign will give Mainers a government of, by and for the people. A yes vote for Question #1 will limit the influence of special interest money that’s currently fueling our elections.

“We are working to reclaim our democracy, and put our government back in the hands of Mainers by voting Yes on Question 1 and remind politicians to focus on the issues that matter most like education and job creation.”

From Stacey Long Simmons, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs:

“The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund joins campaign-finance reform advocates in Maine and across America in celebrating this significant victory. LGBTQ people know the importance of having greater access to our democracy for all, regardless of monetary circumstances. We are happy that the people of Maine voted in favor of transparency and accountability in elections. We are proud to stand with other Democracy Initiative organizations in celebrating this achievement.”

From Marge Baker, People for the American Way Executive Vice President:

“We already knew that Americans care deeply about getting big money out of elections, and yesterday’s victories showed that voters are taking it upon themselves to make real progress in our cities and states. Voters are frustrated with the big money takeover of our democracy, and they’re channeling that frustration into action. The victories yesterday in Maine and Seattle should remind people across the country that change is indeed possible on money in politics.”

From Joan Mandle, Democracy Matters Executive Director:

“A great day for American democracy! The fantastic victories in Maine and Seattle show that public financing systems are not only constitutional and viable but popular among everyday Americans. With Presidential candidates also supporting public financing, this is a clear demonstration of the growing and diverse movement that will take back our government and make it truly of, by and for the American people.”

From Heather McGee, Demos President:

“Yesterday, Maine voters decisively approved an initiative to fight back against big-money politics and chose  instead  to give ordinary persons a chance to run for office and have their voices heard in our democracy.  The election results for the Maine Accountable Elections initiative are a resounding victory for a people-centered vision of democracy, in which farmers, waitresses, and factory workers are still able to run and win elected office without having to rely on lobbyists and wealthy special interests.  

“Yesterday’s victory will help ensure a government of, by and for the people – rather than government bought and paid for by the wealthiest individuals and special interests.  This will help put government in the hands of Mainers, so that elected officials will focus on the issues that matter to ordinary people – like education and creating jobs that provide decent wages.   

“Demos applauds the tremendous grass-roots energy and mobilizing that led to this victory for We the People in Maine.  We hope that Maine’s leadership on people-centered politics will inspire similar reforms in other states and ultimately in Congress, where legislation such as the Government by the People Act could pave the way for making our federal elections accountable to the people instead of to big money.”

From Anthony Rogers-Wright, Environmental Action Policy & Organizing Director for Environmental Action:

“The passage of Question 1 in Maine is the type of local action that will put give our country and the government it deserves, for and by the people. It’s similar to local actions in communities resisting climate change and fighting for environmental, economic and racial justice, and it passed with bi-partisan support, demonstrating that our country is ready to eviscerate the influence money has in our politics.

“Maine chose not to wait for Citizens United to be overturned—they acted locally and ensured transparent elections that aren’t surreptitiously purchased by corporations and their lobbyists through a system of legal bribery. They put their lawmakers on notice and told them they’ll be held accountable to and by the people. Question 1’s passage will be remembered as an epochal moment in U.S. history.”

From John Bonifaz, Free Speech for People President:

“Thank you to the voters of Maine and Seattle for standing up to defend our democracy. Yesterday’s victories for public funding of our elections mark important steps forward for ending the big money dominance of our politics and for restoring the promise of American self-government: of, by, and for the people.”

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The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a network of 59 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.