Friday, February 21, 2020

How Democratic Billionaires Could Save Democracy

Billionaires have, apparently, decided the way to save the United States is to become president. Trump (assuming he is a billionaire—who knows since he hasn’t released financial statements?) won the presidency in 2016. Billionaires Steyer and Bloomberg want to run against him in 2020.

Media reports suggest Steyer has spent over $100 million of his own money on a campaign that hasn’t yet earned him a single delegate. Bloomberg started later and has spent over $300 million. Are they the most qualified Democratic candidates? I’ll let you decide that for yourself. For argument’s sake, let’s say they are, but agreed instead of trying to get themselves elected, they would back whoever else the Democratic party chose for their candidate and spent their $400 million (and counting) on making sure everyone who wanted to vote in the November general election could.

Here are a few things they could have done with their bucks (and still could):

Voter Registration & Encouragement

Billionaires could support voter registration drives. I’d prefer these were nonpartisan because supporting democracy means giving every eligible person the opportunity to participate in elections.

All states have methodologies to remove no-longer-eligible voters from their rolls. How each state defines eligibility varies. Many states have use-it-or-lose-it laws to purge people from their rolls because they have chosen to not vote in previous elections. Legal, but one problem is those same states often have registration requirements that won’t allow the purged to re-register in time to vote in the next election. In 2017, Georgia used its law to remove more than 100,000 people from its voter rolls for this reason alone.

What if the billionaires funded an outreach program to have someone visit each removed person to make sure they understood they could no longer vote and provide them information about how to re-register? Let’s say it costs $100 a person for such a visit. $1 million bucks could make sure Georgians knew their rights. It’s not the same in all fifty states, but if it were, it would total $50 million to make sure people could vote.

They could spend money to support same-day registration initiatives. With proof of residency, why shouldn’t we allow citizens to vote?

Many states have implemented Voter ID requirements. What would it cost for the billionaires to fund efforts to provide approved voter IDs to all those who don’t have them?


Some people want to vote but can’t get to the polls. What if the billionaires provided the dollars to hire ride services for anyone who needed transportation for primaries and general elections? How many thousands of potential voters could benefit? I don’t know, but they are likely to be poor or disabled; otherwise they could afford transportation. These groups favor Democratic policies.

This could only be done in states where it is legal. Michigan Republicans enacted a law making it illegal to pay for a vehicle to transport an able-bodied voter to the polls. It’s a misdemeanor charge that could result in up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. Their supposed reason is that people could be influenced to vote the way the driver wants the individual to vote—baloney, since the driver can’t assist with the actual voting process.

Court Challenges

Politicians in power have used laws to perpetuate their hold. Gerrymandering is one example most people know. Recently, Republicans have controlled most of the state legislatures and so have been the ones making sure to draw districts to their advantage. If Democrats were in power, they’d likely be doing the same thing.

Billionaires interested in promoting democracy should invest in defeating gerrymandering efforts. Here’s one worthy example: In 2018, Michigan voters approved by 3-2 the creation of an independent redistricting commission. It replaces the current system in which the state legislature gerrymanders districts. Republicans (who had control of all three branches of government prior to the election) sued to overturn the voter-approved referendum.

Voting Machines

It’s crucial to have paper ballots back-ups to electronic voting to be able to recount ballots should there be any irregularities (whether or not malicious). Many districts can’t afford to provide capable voting machines. Billionaires could buy and donate the machines to help secure our elections.

Much more

I’ve barely scratched the surface of ways Democratic-leaning billionaires can help return voting power to people. What do you think?

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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. False Bottom, the sixth and most recent novel in the series is set in the Boston area. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at

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