Chapel Hill needs to make up its mind. The town should either have mandatory publicly financed campaigns or campaigns that rely on private fundraising. Straddling these two options simply wastes money.
Chapel Hill’s Voter-Owned Elections program is the first to try publicly financed municipal campaigns in North Carolina history.
But so far the program has only attracted two participants. The program isn’t mandatory — candidates can opt-in if they choose to.
Some argue that publicly financed elections bring in candidates who wouldn’t otherwise run because they don’t have the resources. And these two candidates could be people Chapel Hill might not have seen in an election.
But this publicly financed program imposes caps on how much these two candidates can spend.
That will make competing with the other candidates who aren’t using public money difficult.
The program also risks making the election field too wide, allocating resources to those who really don’t have a shot at winning.
It might seem like a harsh reality, but part of the election process is the ability to raise money. People disagree on the benefit of the role money plays in elections, but it’s a fact of our political system.
A publicly financed campaign simply cannot compete with the resources of a privately financed one.
So a non-mandatory public plan doesn’t really open up the election process to new people.
It just wastes money on people who otherwise wouldn’t have run and don’t have the resources to win.
If Chapel Hill honestly wants to change its election system, it needs to make participation in the publicly financed program mandatory.
Or if Chapel Hill doesn’t want to implement a mandatory program, it’s probably best that we eliminate the Voter-Owned Elections program altogether.
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