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Democracy Dollars Program | Oakland Fair Elections Act

On November 8, 2022, Oakland voters approved ballot Measure W, the Oakland Fair Elections Act, creating a newly designed public campaign financing program that disperses $100 in Democracy Dollar vouchers to eligible Oakland residents who can then assign the Dollars to the candidate of their choice. The Democracy Dollars Program is expected to launch beginning in the 2026 election cycle.

What is the Democracy Dollars Program?

The Democracy Dollars Program offers a new way for Oakland residents to participate in local government by supporting campaigns and/or running for office themselves. Democracy Dollars are certificates that Oakland residents can give to participating candidates to help support their campaigns.

When is the first election I can use Democracy Dollars?

Funds available for 2026 candidates will be announced after the 2025-2027 Budget is adopted in June 2025. In early 2026, the PEC will distribute the Democracy Dollars to Oakland residents. Eligible residents can then use their Democracy Dollars to support participating candidates running for Oakland elected offices.

Why is the Democracy Dollars Program launch delayed for the 2024 election cycle?

Under Oakland Fair Elections Act, the Commission is required to vote on a delay if it cannot fully implement the program. Because the Fiscal Year 2023-2025 Adopted Budget does not provide funding for the Democracy Dollars vouchers or sufficient staffing and resources to administer the full Program or a pilot, the Commission voted to postpone the distribution and use of Democracy Dollars vouchers for the 2024 election cycle. However, the Commission is continuing to build out the technology, policy, and staffing infrastructure to successfully implement the Program in subsequent elections.

How did the Democracy Dollars Program come about?

In November 2022, Oakland voters passed Measure W, the Oakland Fair Elections Act. Measure W enacted several campaign finance reforms that change the way campaigns are typically financed for Oakland candidates.

One major reform allows the Oakland Public Ethics Commission (Commission or PEC) to distribute "Democracy Dollars" to eligible Oakland residents. The new law outlines criteria for participation and thresholds that a candidate must meet to qualify for the program and receive their assigned vouchers, including campaign spending limits and participation in a certain number of public forums. The Democracy Dollars program also includes a significant outreach component to encourage broad participation in the new program.

Oakland is the first California city, and only the second city in the nation, to try this innovation in public campaign financing. The Commission is committed to increasing transparency, accountability, equity, and accessibility for how Oakland elections are financed.

How can I get involved with the Democracy Dollars program?

There are many ways to stay informed and get involved in this exciting new program:

Project Timeline

  • November 2022

    Oakland voters approve Measure W

  • July 2023

    Democracy Dollars postponed for 2024 election due to budget cuts

  • June 2025

    2025 - 2027 budget adopted

  • December 2025

    Commission announces Democracy Dollars funds available for 2026 election

  • January 2026 - Program Launch

    Candidate application process begins

  • January - April 2026

    Community outreach to raise awareness of program

  • April 2026

    Democracy Dollars mailed to Oakland registered voters

    Eligible residents not registered to vote may apply for Democracy Dollars

  • April - November 2026

    Eligible Oakland residents assign vouchers to candidate of their choice

    Funds are disbursed to participating candidates

  • November 2026

    Election

  • December 2026

    Candidates return unused Democracy Dollars Funds

News & Announcements

Community Engagement

Additional Resources

Learn more about the Democracy Dollars program and campaign finance in Oakland.

Related Meetings

About

The Public Ethics Commission is an independent commission made up of Oakland residents and charged with ensuring fairness, openness, honesty and integrity in Oakland City government.

Our objective is to make sure Oakland public officials and government decision-making processes operate in a fair and unbiased manner, to promote transparency in Oakland government, and to promote public trust in our local political system.

The Commission's duties include ensuring compliance with the City of Oakland's government ethics, campaign finance, transparency, and lobbyist registration laws

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