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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Issue of the Week: Let the People Decide Elections

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On Monday, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted 14-4 to override a Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele veto of a resolution allowing an important pro-democracy vote on the November ballot.

The resolution to amend the U.S. Constitution, part of the national Move to Amend campaign, would strengthen average voters’ voices in elections while reining in the influence of corporations. Similar advisory resolutions have passed in 41 Wisconsin communities and more than 500 throughout the country, usually by wide margins. They’re overwhelmingly popular because they strike back at the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which encourages corporations to spend heavily on candidates for office because it’s their First Amendment right to do so. One way to overturn Citizens United is to force a vote on a constitutional amendment, which will be difficult but possible if enough voters pressure their elected representatives. That’s what this advisory referendum is designed to do.

We applaud the 14 supervisors who voted to support the measure—some of whom were sharply critical of Abele’s efforts to prevent Milwaukee County residents from voting on this very important matter. Abele, of course, is the son of a billionaire who spent heavily in his 2011 campaign to defeat his rivals, so he definitely understands the power of deep pockets in campaigns.

We also think it’s unfortunate that voters must weigh in on this issue, since there’s no other way for them to be heard. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have defied public opinion and supported unfettered spending in campaigns, whether it’s by corporations or super-wealthy individuals who can spend more than longstanding donation limits. A recent decision struck down aggregate limits in federal races, and a new legal settlement would do away with Wisconsin’s aggregate limits. The result will boost the influence of the 1%, even in races in which they cannot vote. That isn’t in the best interest of a democracy in which local constituents—not far-off millionaires and billionaires—decide what is best for themselves at the ballot box.

We encourage Milwaukee County voters to support the pro-democracy referendum during the November elections. Voters should decide elections—not money.