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Clean Elections needs to be strengthened, improved

On June 5, the Arizona Capitol Times published a letter entitled “Why Clean Elections needs to end now.” The League of Women Voters of Arizona, which was instrumental in writing and achieving the passage of the Clean Elections law and which remains a major supporter of the system, takes issue with opposition to that law. Clean Elections is neither un-American nor unconstitutional.

Clean Elections provides more voice; it does not silence candidates. It gives Arizona residents more choices when they go into the voting booth. Before Clean Elections, the deck was stacked against candidates without personal wealth or financially influential supporters. Clean Elections leveled the playing field for all citizens. It encourages citizens to run for office without needing to raise funds that might make them beholden to special interests.

After the Clean Elections law took effect, many more women and minorities were able to run for public office. Running with Clean Elections money did not guarantee that they would win but it gave them a chance. Granted, while we still have few competitive districts, the Clean Elections law has allowed candidates to compete in districts where contributors would normally have been skeptical about donating funds to any campaign running against the entrenched party.

Candidates are not required to run on Clean Elections money. Those who participate agree to limited expenditures as they start their campaigns. Traditional candidates are not legally locked into these limits. Matching funds to the Clean Elections candidates are triggered only when these candidates go over reasonable thresholds of spending. Traditional candidates may philosophically choose to take private money; that is their choice. But the triggering of matching funds prevents big money and special interests from drowning out candidates who have more modest means.

Legislators of both parties have worked together to repeal some of the punitive elements that have negatively impacted non-participating candidates. The League of Women Voters of Arizona supports continued bipartisan efforts to lessen the impact of the other inequitable elements.

Clean Elections needs to be continued, strengthened, and improved. It does not need to be repealed or weakened.

— Bonnie F. Saunders, President, League of Women Voters of Arizona

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