RACINE — The 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission ruling has caused its fair share of controversy in recent years, and several local residents are interested in seeing what Racine thinks about it.
Should corporate spending on elections be limited?
On Tuesday, the City Council is scheduled to discuss the possibility of adding a referendum about the ruling, which prevents the limiting of corporate spending on elections via the First Amendment, to the April election ballot. The referendum would only be advisory and would ask residents whether they would support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.
“It’s a long-term effort to show that citizens overwhelmingly support ending Citizens United and overturning it,” said William Earley, a Caledonia resident spearheading the effort locally. “Passing a constitutional amendment is the surefire way of causing that to happen.”
The referendum is part of a state and national effort to overturn the controversial decision coordinated by an organization called United to Amend. Earley, who signed the request along with six Racinians, including Racine Unified School Board members Mike Frontier and John Heckenlively, said the effort began in Wisconsin in 2011 and that Madison was one of the first communities to show its support.
According to Earley, 95 communities in Wisconsin have passed some sort of anti-Citizens United resolutions. Of those that do so through referendums, the average favorable vote for the referendum is 78 percent.
“When it goes to the vote, the referendum has never failed to pass,” Earley said. “When the people get a chance, they know how they feel about it.”
The movement started in Racine on Nov. 8, when volunteers gathered 1,435 signatures in support of the referendum at four different polling places in the city. At the county level, Earley said he and other supporters felt Racine would be the best place to start, but future action is possible in other areas.
“Over time, we hope to bring this to other communities locally here on the east side of the Interstate and out west too,” he said.
Racine City Council President and 10th District Alderman Dennis Wiser confirmed that the council would discuss the referendum at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. and proceeds the City Council meeting. He added that the potential referendum would be purely advisory, as all local elections have campaign finance restrictions decided at the state level.