On Tuesday evening, more than 35 people gathered at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center in Columbia for the national pilot of Democracy Initiative’s new “Road to Democracy” training. The  mix of high school students, Fair Elections Howard staff, and popular democracy advocates took time to feel out each other and the room before settling into their seats. Touching on the U.S. Supreme Court decisions of Citizens United v FEC (2010) and Shelby County v. Holder (2013) decisions, Democracy Initiative’s Senior Strategist and Organizer Angie Wells helped attendees connect the dots between big money in politics and voting rights challenges in various forms during the two-hour workshop.


After a talk by Wells and a short video, four groups formed and huddled near the corners of the room. Participants worked through interactive exercises that challenged them to think like diverse stakeholder groups and respond to different issue prompts. The take-home message for the day was that the road to popular democracy is paved with public campaign funding and voting rights protection. When public campaign funding empowers citizens to demand responsiveness and accountability from elected officials, we move toward a truer version of democracy. When everyday citizens make their voices heard at the polls, we are reminded of the force of popular will. Most importantly, progress is the direct result of continued efforts to level the playing field.

As such, the evening concluded with a discussion of the Fair Elections Howard Citizens’ Election Fund #VoteYesonA led by Common Cause Maryland’s Policy Manager Damon Effingham and campaign organizers. The second public campaign funding system for local elections in the state of Maryland and potentially the first in the country to appear on the ballot all by itself, the Citizens’ Election Fund is the vehicle for a more robust in Howard County and representation of the growing will for popular democracy free of corporate interference in our elections.