This article originally provided by The Journal

October 5, 2007

Woman pushes for clean election

By LAUREN HOUGH / Journal Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG — A Jefferson County woman is confident that, by removing money power from the voting process, the power of democracy can be returned to the people of West Virginia.

Virginia Graf is part of a growing grassroots movement toward “clean” elections that could push legislation forward to provide candidates with a system of public funding for elections.

“It’s such a savings,” Graf said. “It gives so many more people an opportunity to run for public office.”

Under the Clean Elections legislation, any candidate for public office would need to collect a set number of signatures and small donations of $3 or $5 to qualify for a portion of public funds. The state government would contribute public money from its budget for candidates, setting limits on what could be spent for a campaign. For legislative races in West Virginia, an estimated 1/10 of 1 percent of the state’s budget would be sufficient for the process, according to Graf.

That funding opens the field to more candidates of any party affiliation through removing the need for individual fundraising efforts and the hunt for big, corporate sponsors, Graf said.

“We have lost our democracy,” she said. “I feel like the highest bidders of everything own the government.”

That sentiment could be a contributing factor to West Virginia’s historically low voter turnout rates, she added.

“People think their votes don’t matter,” Graf said.

Though it may seem like citizens pay more to fund the “clean elections” process, Graf insists they get a bargain. In the traditional election system, legislators fund projects in response to the wishes of their big donors — projects that often cost taxpayers much more, she explained.

“Any project these special interest groups want, we all pay for that, but it doesn’t benefit all of us,” she said.

The reformed system would be a good deal for the candidates as well, she said. They would have more time to spend with constituents as a result of less time spend fundraising. Graf remains confident that, with enough support, legislation that has been started to authorize the Clean Elections process for West Virginia can soon be passed out of committees in order to become a reality for candidates in the state. The movement has already been successful in seven states, including Arizona, Maine, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Graf is currently collecting signatures from those who support the process to present to legislators. Anyone wishing to help collect signatures, or anyone wishing to view a 15 minute DVD presentation on Clean Elections may call Graf at (304) 728-2829.

— Staff writer Lauren Hough can be reached at (304) 263-8931, ext. 163, or at


Voter-Owned Elections

Citizens for Clean Elections P.O. Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773-6753 304-522-0246