Are you for or against a campaign to amend the U.S. constitution to say that corporations are not people and money is not speech? That’s the question Salt Lake City residents are being asked to answer this month as part of a new citizen initiative tool city officials created to let voters have their say.
In 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court decided that corporations and unions have the first amendment right to funnel unlimited amounts of cash into federal elections. Since then, a national campaign called Move to Amend has persuaded 500 local governments to pass resolutions supporting a U.S. constitutional amendment to reverse that decision. Ashley Sanders is with Move to Amend Salt Lake. She wants Salt Lake City to be number 501.
“We know that passing an amendment through a corporate occupied congress is not an easy task," Sanders says. "So our job is to build a movement of people, a grassroots movement that’s so powerful we can’t be ignored.”
Last year, Move to Amend Salt Lake gathered enough signatures to get a resolution on the city’s November 2012 ballot. But the group’s efforts were mired by a Utah law that bans voter opinion questions from the general election ballot.
A sympathetic Salt Lake City council voted to create a new path for citizen initiatives in the form of a mail-in, local opinion poll. If two-thirds of all Salt Lake City voters say yes to the resolution, it will be etched in city code. Salt Lake City Council Chair Kyle LaMalfa says not everyone on the council supports the initiative.
“But it was a unanimous decision on the part of the city council that voters should have the right to a process to assert their opinion," LaMalfa says.
LaMalfa says as a locally elected official, he hasn’t been subject to the pressures of corporate money, but…
“It’s is frightening to me that so much of what is part and parcel of the legislative process at higher levels of government is so dependent on relationships with interests that might not be aligned with the interests of ordinary voters," LaMalfa says.
Salt Lake City voters have until September 26th to return their completed mail-in ballots to the city recorder’s office. Replacement ballots can be picked up at the city recorder’s office.