The voice and power of the people is central to a real democracy. All of us should be part of our self-governance: we should be the shapers and decision makers of the policies and systems that affect our lives. This begins with upholding the right to vote, but democracy is more than just elections. It is about who has real influence and presence in our government – a right that shouldn’t be reserved just for the wealthy or elite. We must ensure that the structures of our democracy work to support the full participation of all community members.

To achieve democracy for all in Montgomery County and Maryland, we need:

Every eligible voter should have the ability to vote and have their vote count. To ensure all voters have a voice, we must ensure all voters can register and participate without infringement. Reforms like automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and restoration of voting for returning citizens are key to making sure no member of our democracy is left out. Mail-in voting, early voting, and accessible polling places help to ensure that schedule and geography aren’t barriers to exercising our right to vote.

We need to make sure that the structure of our electoral process is fair and just. This means making sure that how we vote gives voters greater choice, respects the voices of all, and creates fair representation. Ranked choice voting – where voters rank their preferred candidates in order of choice – is an innovative and proven reform to improve our voting systems. We also need to end gerrymandering in Maryland. Districts should be drawn to provide fair representation to all regardless of where you live – not to protect politicians or political parties.

Money influences our elections and the policies that impact our lives on a daily basis – from housing to transportation to the economy and education. To give everyday people a voice in who runs, wins, and governs, we need to remove the influence of big money by supporting public financing for elections. The small donor matching program in Montgomery County is essential to leveling the playing field for grassroots leaders, women, people of color, and low-income candidates. We must continue to lead the region and support straightforward public financing policies that work for all types of candidates – and make this system available for both county- and state-level candidates.

Our lived experience of how policy decisions impact our daily lives is essential expertise, and our knowledge and skills are essential resources that our county needs to solve our most pressing challenges. All members of the community should have the ability not only to provide input but to help set the priorities and guidelines for our public policy and how it is implemented. This includes citizen-led commissions and advisory boards, along with citizen working groups on key county issues like transportation, economic development, housing, and education.