Presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has proposed a plan that would give up to $600 in vouchers to every registered voter in the country during an election cycle.
Wait. What's the plan?
This proposal, which she has dubbed "Democracy Dollars," is part of her "Clean Elections Plan" and would, in theory, reduce the influence that big dollar donors have in U.S. politics.
According to a Medium post published under Gillibrand's name on Tuesday, voters would have to opt-in to the program in order to receive vouchers. Voters who opt in would receive "$200 worth of Democracy Dollars to assign to their preferred candidates in each federal race." These voters could get separate $200 vouchers for House, Senate, and presidential candidates, adding up to a potential $600 value.
But there's a catch. These voucher dollars can only go to candidates who "meet the qualifying threshold and agree to cap all individual cash donations to $200."
Gillibrand said that this plan would "[e]mpower more Americans, especially young people, women, and people of color" and lessen the influence of "special interests and wealthy megadonors — who are overwhelmingly white, male and older."
How much would this cost?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 153,066,000 registered voters during the 2018 midterm elections. If all these voters took advantage of this voucher program (which would be unlikely), that would cost the federal government $30.6 billion each year just in presidential vouchers. If every registered voter applied for every possible voucher, that number would grow to $91.8 billion. And that's assuming no cost for processing requests, delivering the money, or investigating potential abuses of the system.
In 2016, the campaigns of President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised a combined total of less than $2.5 billion.
In her Medium post, Gillibrand said that she would pay for this by getting rid of "the loophole that makes taxpayers subsidize excessively high CEO compensation: CEOs making 25 times the median salary of their employees or more than $1 million, whichever is less."
She said this would "raise over $60 billion in ten years," or less than two-thirds the potential cost of the program for a single year.