For Immediate Release: June 13, 2023



LOS ANGELES — Today, Council unanimously adopted a motion introduced by Councilmember Nithya Raman, and co-presented by Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Hugo Soto-Martínez, to direct the City to report back on establishing a Democracy Voucher program to empower all Angelenos, regardless of income or background, to have the opportunity to donate to candidates who reflect the interests of their community. A similar program has been in place in Seattle, Washington since 2015, resulting in a more diverse donor base, increased engagement among low-propensity voters, and the city’s most diverse mayoral field ever in 2021. 

While the City of Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the country, an April 2022 report from LA for Democracy Vouchers cites that just 49.8% of dollars contributed to the 2020 municipal elections came from people who live in Los Angeles or from the City’s matching funds program and that majority white ZIP codes gave 2.6 times as much per person as ZIP codes with majority people of color. This data highlights the extent to which communities of color and low-income communities in Los Angeles are left out of the campaign financing process, often because they cannot afford to make a contribution. A recent updated report on the 2022 election showed that campaign donations overwhelmingly came once again from a few wealthy donors, people outside Los Angeles, and wealthier, whiter neighborhoods.

“Right now in Los Angeles, the majority of dollars donated toward local elections do not reflect the majority of Angelenos, leaving thousands of voices unheard,” said Councilmember Raman. “Though democracy vouchers will by no means solve this issue in one fell swoop, they will help create a more equitable campaign finance system that everyone can participate in. By making campaign financing accessible to all, the City can boost political engagement, diversify the donor pool, and ensure that candidates and officeholders are more representative of the electorate.”

“Our campaign finance system is broken. Corporations, special interests, and Wall St. billionaires are drowning out the voices of ordinary Angelenos,” said Councilmember Soto-Martínez. “Democracy vouchers would be a step toward giving communities of color and working class people the ability to reclaim their voice. Because we need a city government that truly reflects Los Angeles instead of a government that just represents the well-connected establishment.”

“It’s about time we evened the playing field in our elections,said Councilmember Harris-Dawson. “When numbers skew away from low-income neighborhoods or communities of color and towards the city’s wealthier areas, we know there are voices that are not being heard. This approach amplifies the people’s voices and is a crucial step towards equity in the election process.” 

Councimember Raman’s legislation instructs the Chief Legislative Analyst, in consultation with the Ethics Commission and relevant City departments, to report back within 90 days on the feasibility of establishing a Democracy Vouchers program in the City of Los Angeles.