October 20, 2015

We can fight voter apathy, empower average voters

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Jordyn Jagels, Courtesy Photo

Jordyn Jagels is a Campaign Organizer for the New Mexico Public Interest Research Group.

I have seen a lot of coverage across media outlets regarding the most recent City elections in Albuquerque. Ninety-two percent of people decided not to vote, and we’re not ignoring this fact.

Jordyn Jagels, Courtesy Photo

Jordyn Jagels, Courtesy Photo

What we have been ignoring, however, is how to fix this.

The problem isn’t voter laziness or apathy alone; it’s the feeling of helplessness. Voters do not feel like their vote matters because many are not hearing from those that wish to represent them.

There’s a disconnect between the people and their representatives today that exists because of big money’s influence on our elections. Nowadays, in order for candidates to win, they have to outspend their opponents.

This means that candidates have to spend more time raising money from donors with big wallets instead of talking to their constituents. Luckily, we can combat this and make it so that candidates can spend more time with constituents than special interests and still win elections.

The Albuquerque City Council currently has a Charter Review Task Force that is considering updating public finance with a small donor matching program. If a small donor matching system is put in place it means that a small donation from an average citizen will be worth almost as much as those coming from big money donors.

This means that candidates don’t have to spend their time fishing for big money donations in the sea of special interest, but rather can spend their time with the average citizen talking about the issues and earning their donations.  The best part about this proposal is that it does not require new taxes since the funds will come from the already existing pot of funds allocated to public finance.

Public financing is a great first step to bridging the gap between elected officials and constituents, but there is more that needs to be done to ensure that trust and accountability exists between elected officials and constituents. A small donor empowerment system is that bridge.

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