PLATTEVILLE, Wis. -- Residents in four southwest Wisconsin communities in April will be asked to support amending the United States Constitution to reform campaign- finance laws.
Voters in Platteville, Lancaster, Darlington and Belmont will be asked to declare that only humans -- not corporations, unions or other organizations -- should be afforded constitutional rights. The ballot measure also asks voters to agree that money is not speech, meaning political contributions can be regulated.
A "yes" vote on the resolution would indicate support for a constitutional amendment, while a "no" vote would indicate opposition. Elections are set for April 5.
"This is the biggest issue of our time; the root problem that needs to be addressed," said Ray Spellman, of Darlington, a member of Wisconsin United to Amend. "The unregulated influence of money is corrupting our democracy. Everyone, no matter their level of interest in politics or activism, gets this and understands the problem at a gut level."
The votes are the results of advocacy efforts from Wisconsin United to Amend, which seeks to overturn a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Decision. The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision essentially opened the door to unlimited political spending by corporations and unions.
In Wisconsin, 60 local governments have approved resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment, according to the United to Amend website.
"The people have supported this by 60, 70, and 80 percent in the communities that have passed the referendum," Spellman said.
The measure also will be on the ballots in Beloit, Janesville and Monroe. The Platteville Common Council put the measure on the ballot in November, after receiving a petition with 835 signatures.
Charlie Clark, co-chairman of Move To Amend efforts in Platteville, helped collect the signatures.
"Working with the Move To Amend efforts in Platteville has not only given me some insight into what has happened to cause such a disconnect between the politicians and the people they are supposed to represent, but also helps me see what can be done to change this trend," he said. "I got involved because it gives me hope that something can be done to change the 'legal bribery' system we have now."
Move to Amend efforts are underway in Iowa and Illinois. Dubuque City Council members in early 2014 passed a resolution condemning the Citizens United decision.