June 22nd, tomorrow, is “Voter-Owned Elections Lobby Day” at the North Carolina General Assembly. Sponsored by the North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections (NCVCE), the day will be dedicated to garnering support for HB120, which would allow large municipalities (pop. >50,000) to publicly fund municipal campaigns. SB966 which would expand publicly funded statewide races to include Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commissioner of Labor, will also be emphasized. Partners of NCVCE, including the NAACP of NC, the League of Women Voters and the North Carolina Association of Educators, are all co-sponsoring the lobby day.
The goal of voter-owned elections, which is a nice way of describing campaigns paid for by government, is to minimize the impact of money in elections. However, doing so would come at the expense of legitimate government expenditures on such things as education and infrastructure. Budgeting is about prioritizing and funding elections is not a cause worthy of taking money out of the productive private sector through taxes, especially considering the cuts that K-12 education and the UNC system are facing.
Currently, you have a choice on whether funding campaigns is a worthwhile investment; you can choose to contribute to candidates that you support. Publicly funded campaigns would take that decision away from you. Government is supposed to run elections but it is not the purpose of government to fund candidates. Candidates accepting public funds would be required to adhere to strict campaign regulations, a form of government control.
When considering policy, it is always good to ask the following three questions: Does the policy increase freedom? In this case, no – in fact, it restricts freedom. Does the policy make government more efficient? No, these two bills would needlessly increase the size of bureaucracy and impose onerous regulations that would require government oversight. Does the policy promote fairness? No. What is fair about forcing taxpayers to fund the political campaigns of candidates that they may not even support? A fourth question: all things considered, are voter-owned elections a good policy?