Elected officials and voters in Shorewood and Whitefish Bay may have a chance to weigh in on the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United decision.
On Monday, organizers from statewide progressive group United Wisconsin and local progressive advocacy group Grassroots Northshore turned in petitions for a referendum which calls for a reversal of the Citizens United ruling, which they say "granted corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections."
The groups turned in 1,405 signatures to Whitefish Bay Village Hall and 1,224 to Shorewood Village Hall on Monday morning after 60 days of gathering signatures.
"Our petition drive was met with overwhelming support by the residents of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay," Grassroots Northshore volunteer and Shorewood resident Keith Schmitz said in a news release, "and demonstrates just how concerned voters from across party lines are over the flooding of big money into our election by corporations and the super wealthy."
According to United Wisconsin, Whitefish Bay and Shorewood bring the number of Wisconsin counties and municipalities who have spoken out on Citizens United to 18.
The Whitefish Bay petition — the Shorewood petition was identical save for the name of the village — calls for a referendum question which reads:
"Shall the Village of Whitefish Bay adopt the following resolution:
RESOLVED, the Village of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, calls for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the United States Constitution to establish that:
1. Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and
2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we hereby instruct our state and federal representatives to enact resolutions and legislation to advance this effort."
By state statute village officials in Whitefish Bay and Shorewood have 15 days to verify the petition signatures. If verified, the petitions will go the respective village boards of both communities, where elected officials will decide whether to immediately pass the resolution included in the petition themselves or send the question to their communities via referendum.
Whitefish Bay clerk Kayla Chadwick said that if the signatures are verified, the Village Board will consider the referendum at its Sep. 16 meeting, and could put the question on the spring 2014 ballot. Shorewood clerk Sherry Grant was not immediately available for comment Monday afternoon.
The next two Shorewood Village Board meetings are scheduled for Sept. 3 and 16.
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