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Note: This program expired in 2011 and was not renewed.

In 2009, Chapel Hill became the first North Carolina city to implement a local Voter-Owned Elections program.

Democracy North Carolina played a pivotal role in making the Chapel Hill pilot Voter-Owned Elections program a reality.

About the Chapel Hill Program

Like other Voter-Owned Elections programs, the Chapel Hill program offered a limited public grant to candidates who voluntarily accepted strict fundraising and spending limits and who showed they have broad community support by gathering a set number of small donations from registered voters.

Voter-Owned Elections are especially important for local governments for a number of reasons:

  • Local elections are particularly vulnerable to large amounts of spending, making it possible for groups with a financial stake in town government decisions to play dominant roles as big donors.
  • Local offices often require a heavy commitment of time in return for little compensation. This creates a big enough disincentive for community leaders to run for elected office. Add in today’s high cost of campaigning and too many of local leaders don’t want to run for office, robbing NC towns of vital leadership.
  • VOE puts local voters at the center of elections. VOE allows candidates to spend less time fundraising and more time discussing issues with voters.
  • Local VOE programs can be tailored to a town’s specific needs and are paid for out of local funds, not the state budget.
  • Candidates don’t get any public funds unless they play by the rules. Public financing is voluntary. To qualify for funds, candidates must agree to spending and fundraising limits, and must gain approval from local voters who give them the needed qualifying, small donations.

A Proven Reform

About a dozen cities and counties around the nation have adopted public financing programs. In addition to Albuquerque and Portland, they include Tucson, which has the oldest program (begun in 1987) and the highest participation of candidates (over 90%); Austin, TX; Boulder, CO; Dade County, FL; New York City; Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco, CA. All of these local governments have reported positive results from their investment in public campaign financing.

In North Carolina, several city governments have asked General Assembly to authorize local public financing statewide. Raleigh, Asheville, Greenville and Wilmington all passed city council resolutions in support of local VOE. Download the Greenville resolution here or take a look at Wilmington’s resolution here.

Help us move forward on local Voter-Owned Elections in North Carolina – Sign up for updates and action alerts today!