Flying under the radar in the red-blue drama of this week's off-year elections were a series of election-reform laws that passed on both coasts -- measures that campaign-finance reform advocates hail as turning points in their movement.

In Maine, 55 percent of voters agreed to strengthen their two-decade-old Clean Elections Act by boosting public funding for campaigns and putting in place penalties for those who break campaign finance law.

In Seattle, 60 percent of voters put in place a first-in-the-nation "democracy voucher" system. Starting in 2017, citizens will get four $25 vouchers they can hand out to the campaign or campaigns of their choice. (It was modeled off a successful 2014 Tallahassee initiative giving local campaign donors there a $25 tax credit rebate.)

Both were framed by supporters as attempts to push back against a 2010 Supreme Court decision, known as Citizens United, and subsequent decisions that allow anyone or any corporation or union to spend as much as they want on elections.

In San Francisco, nearly 75 percent of voters put in a new lobbying reform law proposed by the city's Ethics Commission. It would require anyone spending more than $2,500 in a month on lobbying activities to register with the commission.

Election and campaign finance reform advocates argue Tuesday's results suggest that local government reform movements have the power to push back against the most powerful forces in politics right now: Billionaires.

The Fix spoke with Josh Silver, executive director of, a group advocating for campaign finance and election law reform, about what to make of all of it. Our conversation was edited for clarity and length.

THE FIX: So what do these wins mean for your movement?

Silver: You're seeing this movement emulating gay marriage or gun rights -- gay marriage on the left or gun rights on the right -- on issues that were getting nowhere with folks in Washington until people said "Let's take this fight local" and started winning big. And that's what we're seeing starting to happen from Tallahassee, Fla., to these three locations this year.

THE FIX: Do people really put campaign-finance and election-law reform that high on their list of priorities?

Silver: Yes. In 2012, a Gallup poll showed corruption was second only to jobs in the last presidential election. We've seen some surprisingly high polling. People mistakenly think this is a liberal issue, and it's just not. All you have to do is look at a poll or talk to people on the street to see people don't want the politicians being bought by the highest bidder.

THE FIX: You're pitching these reforms as "anti-corruption" as opposed to "campaign finance reform." Why is that?

SILVER: We're finding that when we call this what it is -- "corruption" -- and redefine this as a fight against corruption, it resonates across the political spectrum in huge numbers. As opposed to campaign finance reform or democracy reform. People like democracy, but they're fired up about corruption.

THE FIX: Tell me about the ups and downs of your movement in years past.

SILVER: For decades, this movement suffered one step forward, two steps back, and then Citizens United at once became the worst and the best thing that ever happened to this movement. It made things worse, but it also increased exponentially the number of Americans who are aware of this crisis -- this money in politics crisis. And so the challenge now is to show the American people that fixing this problem is possible, because vast majorities believe it's not. And that's been our biggest obstacle, and that's why it's been so inspiring to see these local communities taking matters into their own hands.

THE FIX: What do you think when politicians like Hillary Clinton call for constitutional amendments to change campaign finance reform?

SILVER: The constitutional amendment is an easy out for politicians, because the constitutional amendment isn't going to pass anytime soon, and everybody knows it. So it's a way for politicians to vocalize support for reform but they don't have to do anything -- when in fact, if our leaders would exert political capital to pass bold legislative reform, we could fix the problem tomorrow.

THE FIX: So who are your biggest sales people on the campaign trail, then?

SILVER: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, if you can believe it. Donald Trump's biggest applause lines are when he says, "I'm not bought. Everybody else is. We have to get money out of politics." Those conservatives who support Donald Trump feel as passionate about the tissue as just about anything else he says.

THE FIX: What can we expect in the way of campaign and election-law reform on ballots in 2016?

SILVER: This week's campaigns -- that was the beta test. We proved that the American people will vote 'yes' for bold reforms, and that's why it sort of clears the runway for big, bold proposals on the ballot in many other cities. Next year, we're going to be in quite conservative states, and we're going to be talking about corruption a lot.
You can change things by direct ordinances or charter amendments in more than half of cities and states in America.