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How Voter-Owned Elections has worked in other statesFrequently Asked Questions about clean electionsLegislation on Clean Elections

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much will it cost and how will we pay for it?

It is estimated that Iowa could have a fully funded Voter-Owned Elections system for $10 million per year, or less than 1/10 of 1% of our state’s annual budget.

There are several possible ways to pay for a Voter-Owned Elections system. Bipartisan committees are currently considering several options. Some examples are:

  • $5 qualifying contributions.
  • Voluntary income tax check-off.
  • Excess seed money raised by candidates trying to decide if they should run.
  • Voluntary donations.
  • Fines levied by the state’s campaign disclosure board.
  • Other sources determined by the state legislature.

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Is a Voter-Owned Elections law constitutional?

Yes it is. One reason is because it is voluntary. Also, on October 11, 2002, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that using public money to finance political campaigns is constitutional. The Court said that taxes are used “to pay the salaries of state legislators, some of whom an individual taxpayer might support and others whom the taxpayer might not support. Yet no one would suggest that such payments violate the First Amendment.” The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Arizona court’s decision.

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Is Voter-Owned Elections just “Welfare for politicians?”

No, in fact Voter-Owned Elections require candidates to get out and meet voters, and work to show viability. Voter-Owned Elections is a way of returning government to the people it represents, not welfare. It is a way of ensuring that the government is not controlled by special interests. Many incumbents and other candidates have used the system to prevent themselves from feeling beholden to special interests. Maine Republican Senator Ed Youngblood is a retired bank executive. He admits that he could have easily raised the money to fund his campaign. But he wanted to spend time talking with voters and not dealing with potential funders. “I wanted to be able to say ‘I’m not accountable to anyone but you, the voter.’ Obviously it worked well - I got elected.” And he defeated a 16-year incumbent Democrat.

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Will candidates receive enough money to run a competitive campaign?

Yes. Candidates who choose Voter-Owned Elections funding get the equivalent of what is being spent, on average, today for campaigns. The actual dollar amounts are lower because candidates no longer have certain expenses, like fundraising. Participating candidates receive additional funds in the form of a dollar-for-dollar match, up to a set limit, if a nonparticipating opponent spends more than the basic public financing grant.

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Would Voter-Owned Elections undermine the strength of and need for political parties?

No. Under a Voter-Owned system, political parties can - and should - remain active in nominating and endorsing candidates; identifying, researching, and developing the party’s positions on issues; and carrying out non-candidate specific voter registration, get-out-the vote drives, and other “party building” activities. Voter-Owned reform still allows political parties to play a vital role within the political process.

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Can third-party candidates participate in the Voter-Owned system?

Yes. The Voter-Owned system is nonpartisan. Any candidate who gets the required number of signatures and $5 qualifying contributions from within their district can participate in the system.

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Would better campaign finance disclosure laws solve the problem instead of public financing?

No, even though reporting has improved in recent years and we know more about candidates’ funding, it is nearly impossible for the average voter to make sense of this disclosure data without additional information to put it into context. A lot of related information, such as what legislative action a contributor is interested in, doesn’t become available until well after the election. Full and immediate disclosure is necessary but is far from sufficient. We still need a Voter-Owned Elections law.

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If you have further questions, contact Adam at 515/282-0484 or