Expanding the Ballot

ActBlue has two core missions: increasing the number of people who donate to Democrats, and increasing the number of Democrats they can reach with that money. While it's become increasing common to cite a given candidate's ActBlue numbers–a fact we're very proud of–that tendency ignores what, in some ways, is the more important number: this cycle, 3,701 Democratic committees received ActBlue checks. Cut out a few hundred federal races, a handful of special elections, and a bunch of primary candidates who never made it to the general and you're still going to be several thousand committees short of that total. The remainder are state and local candidates and party committees, and a few ballot initiatives.

I want to single out ballot initiatives, because they're an area where the transparency and flexibility of ActBlue really matters. Ballot initiatives are often worded in a way that appeals to voter sensibilities at the broadest level and obscures their true impact. Take California's Proposition 23, which proposed to roll back a clean air bill from 2006 until unemployment dropped below 5.5% for 4 straight financial quarters. This is the usual–and overwhelmingly Republican–case for broad deregulation: it allows businesses to flourish, leading to more jobs. California's unemployment rate is 12%, so it seems like it could be worth a shot.

The problem is that almost every piece of available evidence tells us that Proposition 23 would've been a bad idea. Financial deregulation helped create the crisis that's responsible for California's unemployment rate. Failure to regulate energy companies effectively led to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Proposition 23, which was initially funded by a couple of major Texas oil companies, would've gutted California's clean energy industry, one of the fastest growing sectors of the state economy. Moreover, California's unemployment rate has only been below 5.5% for four quarters three times since 1976. The sunset provision was mostly a joke.

The problem is that it's hard to get that information to the voters. It takes time, money, and effective organizing. That's where CREDO Mobile comes in. They set up an ActBlue listing to process donations so that the No on 23 campaign would have the money they needed to get the message out. More importantly, CREDO and ActBlue gave people who couldn't make it to the ballot box the same voice that the Texas oil companies who funded the other side had. Freedom of speech–in the Citizens United sense–and the ability to advocate for your preferred position on an issue shouldn't be the sole province of major corporations.

That's the power that ActBlue represents: the opportunity for concerned citizens, organizers like CREDO, and political campaigns to come together in one place and express their opinions in dollars and cents. If we limited our scope, we'd be denying those people a voice in our politics that they surely deserve.

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