Eligible Oakland residents will get $100 of city money to spend on candidates in elections for some city offices if Measure W passes this November.
The goal of the measure is to increase voter participation in elections. Most of the contributions to candidates in the past have come from donors spending $500 or more.
Eligible residents will be able to allocate the money called Democracy Dollars to candidates for City Council, mayor, city attorney, city auditor and school board. Currently, public financing is limited to City Council elections.
A majority vote is required for the measure to pass. Then the City Council must adopt the measure.
Proponents say Measure W will amplify the voices of everyday residents and provide an incentive for candidates to meet with residents of each neighborhood.
Opponents say the measure will continue to allow unlimited spending by partisan groups. Those groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for incumbents in recent City Council elections, opponents said in their written opposition statement.
Measure W “would unreasonably limit how much you can give to a candidate, making harder for challengers to change the course of our city,” opponents said in a voter guide to this fall’s measures.
Opponents include mayoral candidate Seneca Scott and former Public Ethics Commissioner Carol Wyatt, according to the guide.
Eligible Oakland residents would get four $25 vouchers to allocate to their top candidates.
City Auditor Courtney Ruby’s office estimates Measure W will cost the city about $7 million every two years. About $3.8 million would fund the Democracy Dollars program.
An estimated $1.6 million would be needed to operate the program annually.
Measure W, if it passes, would apply for the first time in the 2024 election. The measure will repeal Oakland’s Limited Public Financing Act and replace it with the Fair Elections Act.
Public financing is currently capped at $500,000 per election and the city reimburses candidates for their spending. Under the Fair Elections Act, candidates would redeem the Democracy Dollars for public money.
A similar program to Democracy Dollars has allowed candidates in Seattle to rely less on large donations to their campaign, according to proponents of Measure W in Oakland.