Austin can and should put forward a bolder, more inclusive Democracy Dollars program.
For decades, Workers Defense members have fought to build a more reflective democracy and civically engaged community. Working families, immigrants, and low-wage workers are on the frontlines of our economy and the decisions our leaders make impact these communities most, yet too often these communities lack the monetary resources to contribute to candidates that most reflect their values. We must increase small dollar donors in local elections and support the concept of Democracy Dollars, but Prop H falls short in including all Austinites who can legally donate to campaigns.
As it stands, Prop H would create a Democracy Dollars program in which registered voters in Austin would receive vouchers that they could donate to candidates that they support. But it has some flaws. Specifically, Prop H excludes the eligible voters who are not yet registered, Legal Permanent Residents (green card holders) and formerly incarcerated individuals, all of whom are eligible to participate under federal law. It is worth noting that these groups tend to be people of color or lower income individuals in our community, whose voices are already under-represented in our electoral process. For these reasons, Workers Defense members have voted to not endorse Prop H as it is written.
While Prop H is a flawed proposition, there are steps that City Council can take to improve what would be Austin’s Democracy Dollars program. Council Member Greg Casar offered two solutions to the concerns we have raised: 1) He is proposing that if a candidate accepts public vouchers, that candidate would be limited to only contributing only $5000 to their own campaign and 2) Anyone who can legally donate to campaigns yet isn’t registered to vote should be allowed to participate in the democracy dollars program.
Unless Prop H takes the bold leap Austin needs to build a more reflective democracy, we cannot back a program that is not inclusive of all persons eligible to participate in our local democracy. Austin can and should put forward a bolder, more inclusive Democracy Dollars program.
Workers Defense Action Fund is a statewide organization dedicated to building power for low-wage workers, people of color, and immigrants and across Texas to win fair employment conditions and a better quality of life for working families through legislative advocacy, voter education, and voter engagement.