For Immediate Release: March 28, 2023
COUNCILMEMBER RAMAN INTRODUCES MOTION TO ESTABLISH DEMOCRACY VOUCHER PROGRAM FOR THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES -- Councilmember Nithya Raman introduced a motion in City Council on Friday, March 24, co-presented by Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Hugo Soto-Martínez, to direct the City to report back on establishing a Democracy Voucher program to empower all Angelenos, regardless of income or background, to have the opportunity to donate to candidates who reflect the interests of their community. A similar program has been in place in Seattle, Washington since 2015, resulting in a more diverse donor base, increased engagement among low-propensity voters, and the city’s most diverse mayoral field ever in 2021.
While the City of Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the country, an April 2022 report from LA for Democracy Vouchers cites that just 49.8% of dollars contributed to the 2020 municipal elections came from people who live in Los Angeles or from the City’s matching funds program, and that majority white ZIP codes gave 2.6 times as much per person as ZIP codes with majority people of color. This data highlights the extent to which communities of color and low-income communities in Los Angeles are left out of the campaign financing process, often because they cannot afford to make a contribution. A recent updated report on the 2022 election showed that campaign donations overwhelmingly came once again from a few wealthy donors, people outside Los Angeles, and wealthier, whiter neighborhoods.
“In Los Angeles, the City Council does not currently reflect the diversity and makeup of the city. That is in no small part due to who is able to contribute to campaigns,” said Councilmember Raman. “Democracy vouchers offer an opportunity to remedy this issue. By making campaign financing accessible to all, the City can boost political engagement, diversify the donor pool, and ensure that candidates and officeholders are more representative of the electorate.”
"Our campaign finance system benefits candidates who are connected to people with money, power and influence," said Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez. "Democracy vouchers would be a step toward giving communities of color and working class people the ability to reclaim their voice so we can have a city government that is truly representative of Los Angeles."
“We are thrilled to see Los Angeles taking steps towards expanding its public financing system and empowering more Angelenos to participate in our democracy. With democracy vouchers, eligible residents without disposable or discretionary income can contribute to local campaigns, and ensure their voices are heard — and not just the voices of wealthy donors,” said José Del Río III, Co-Lead, Los Angeles for Democracy Vouchers. “We are grateful for Councilmember Raman’s leadership in enhancing civic participation and ensuring our systems empower our communities.”
Councimember Raman’s legislation instructs the Chief Legislative Analyst, in consultation with the Ethics Commission and relevant City departments, as needed, to report back within 90 days on the feasibility of establishing a Democracy Vouchers program in the City of Los Angeles.