Democracy Dollars will improve all election participation - Albuquerque Journal

Democracy Dollars will improve all election participation

The Albuquerque Journal published an editorial (Sept. 13) “Democracy Dollars can’t add up without a real bottom line” misleading readers by claiming Democracy Dollars – a proposed enhancement to the City of Albuquerque Open and Ethical Elections Code – (could require additional taxpayer funding). The questionable analysis unnecessarily scares voters with the tired “new taxes” boogie man.

Albuquerque’s current public financing system was approved by 69% of city voters back in 2005. The reason: Voters believed this was a good way to reduce the influence of large campaign donors on elections and decision-making for candidates running for City Council or mayor. They were right. In the first mayoral election under the new system in 2009, all three mayoral candidates – including the incumbent mayor who had raised more than $1 million from companies with direct interests in city business in the previous election – chose to run under the public financing system. Unfortunately, a Supreme Court decision in 2011 invalidated a key matching provision of the Albuquerque system and put future publicly financed candidates at a huge disadvantage.

Under the current Albuquerque system, anyone seeking to use public financing for their campaign must meet a series of requirements to qualify. For starters, any city candidate must obtain qualifying $5 contributions from a minimum of 1% of registered city voters for mayor or 1% of district voters for Council. That roughly translates to a minimum of 3,300 $5 donations to be able to qualify for public funding for the mayor’s race.

However, without matching funds to help offset large private donations, publicly financed candidates are still at a disadvantage. In the last election, several privately-financed mayoral candidates raised two to three times what the one publicly financed candidate raised. Democracy Dollars would address that by making publicly financed candidates more competitive and more accountable to voters – not big donors.

The city elections charter allows for one tenth of 1% of the city’s approved general fund to be allocated for public financing. The fund has been solvent since it was established almost 15 years ago, despite being used by numerous candidates for mayor and City Council. Even if the Journal’s predictions were to come true, and many more candidates used the public financing program for their campaigns and depleted the fund, the first route to address this issue would be to revise the funding formula, a rational and common-sense solution, not immediately looking at raising taxes.

The writers of the editorial suggest that the same problems with other public financing programs, specifically those used by the state Public Regulation Commission and the city of Santa Fe, will plague Albuquerque’s Democracy Dollars proposal. The very point of the proposed changes to the Albuquerque system are to address these challenges by making it more transparent for voters and more viable for candidates who refuse large private campaign contributions. It’s hard to understand why the Journal would not want to minimize the role of powerful donors in local elections.

The larger and more fundamental question is whether one tenth of one percent of the city budget is worth keeping special interests from controlling city elections. We think most voters and taxpayers would say it is.

When it comes to Democracy Dollars, the $25 coupons being proposed on the Nov. 5 ballot will empower voters by providing them a way to contribute to the local candidate of their choice. The money for these coupons will come from the same fund created in 2005. More importantly, only publicly financed candidates can collect these coupons, and the total amount each candidate can redeem is capped.

We think Democracy Dollars will allow average working people to earmark a tiny portion of their taxes to candidates they support who will be accountable to voters, not powerful special interests. That’s a good investment in local democracy.

Eric Griego sponsored the Albuquerque Open and Ethical Elections program as a city councilor in 2005.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop


DA removed from homicide case
ABQnews Seeker
FARMINGTON – A New ... FARMINGTON – A New Mexico judge has ruled that a district attorney's office must be replaced ...
Navajo Nation adds 23 more COVID cases
ABQnews Seeker
Reservation has had a total of ... Reservation has had a total of 1,540 deaths
Trade woes mean 2022 will be pricier for consumers
Consumers should plan for higher prices ... Consumers should plan for higher prices and budget accordingly
RR shop owners expect prime holiday shopping season
RIO RANCHO – While ... RIO RANCHO – While national supply chain issues may impact big-box stores' holiday shopping ...
With COVID, ‘normal’ is a relative term
Elderly residents living alone know how ... Elderly residents living alone know how to protect themselves; they keep their doors shut and lock their windows at night
Roth conversions offer considerable benefits
I have been a fan for ... I have been a fan for many years of investors building their tax-free (Roth IRA) bucket as large as ...
Can a job-seeker include unpaid work on their résumé?
Try listing your experience and accomplishments ... Try listing your experience and accomplishments under either Consulting or Freelance
Automatic recounts scheduled for close races
ABQnews Seeker
School board, council contests, ballot question ... School board, council contests, ballot question qualify for new tallies
What the heck is going on at Paseo and ...
ABQnews Seeker
New configuration for bike lane confuses ... New configuration for bike lane confuses many