SLO won’t give voters $20 to spend on candidates
April 20, 2016
After Councilman Dan Carpenter changed his position, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to put a halt to a plan to create a democracy voucher system. The council previously endorsed the proposed scheme in which the city would distribute $20 vouchers to voters who could then donate the money to council candidates who refuse to accept conventional contributions.
On March 15, Carpenter joined councilmen John Ashbaugh and Dan Rivoire in voting to direct city staff to prepare policy, legal and operational plans for a democracy voucher system. Carpenter said the proposal would level the playing field and lead to more candidates running for city office.
But Carpenter, who is currently running for a county supervisor seat, released a statement the following week saying he was wrong to think the democracy voucher system was the answer to achieving that goal.
“In the hours and days following the decision, I heard from many citizens throughout the community with a primary concern about the inappropriate use of taxpayer resources for candidates,” Carpenter stated.
After Carpenter changed his mind, the council placed the democracy voucher item back on the agenda. Carpenter then voted with Mayor Jan Marx and Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson to scrap the idea. Ashbaugh and Rivoire cast the dissenting votes on Tuesday.
The democracy voucher idea was first brought to the city by San Luis Obispo farmer William Ostrander, who is currently a candidate for Congress. Supporters of the proposal say it would increase voter participation in city elections and would prevent outside money from swaying local voting.
City staff estimated the voucher program would cost $636,754 to $650,254 in the first year and $240,500 to $377,440 annually thereafter. Funding for the program likely would have come from the city’s general fund.
If San Luis Obispo were to adopt the program, it would be the first of its kind in California.