MADISON — On Tuesday, April 7, Wisconsin residents in 17 communities will vote on a measure known as the “We the People” amendment that would overrule the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling on election financing.
United to Amend, the Wisconsin organization working to put the referendum on ballots across the state, announced the latest ballot initiatives in a press release March 24.
Communities in Green County voted on the referendum back in 2016, and it passed at the county level in 2018. It has also already passed in the City of Darlington and Village of Belmont in Lafayette County.
It asks voters whether to amend the U.S. Constitution to clarify that only humans should have constitutional rights, that money is not the same as speech and political spending can be limited to allow all Americans to participate in the democratic process.
Voters will be casting their ballot on the referendum April 7 in the cities of Rhinelander and Eagle River and in towns in Shawano, Oneida and Vilas counties.
If all vote in favor, a total of 163 Wisconsin communities will have called for the “We The People” amendment thus far, according to United to Amend. Nationwide, the group reports 20 state legislatures have done likewise, as have more than 820 towns, villages, cities and counties.
“This is a grassroots organization,” said Bill Holland, a retired nurse from Monroe who worked to get the referendum on the ballot in Green County communities and has volunteered with United to Amend for about seven years.
“When we get enough counties on board, the legislature is going to be pushed into holding a statewide resolution,” he said. Ultimately, “what we’re doing is trying to get a national referendum to get money out of politics.”
The referendum would need to pass at the state level in 35 states to move on to the federal level, he said.
“This is not a partisan issue. It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue,” Holland said.
Currently Holland and other organizers in the area are working to put the referendum to Lafayette County voters. Holland said there are about a half-dozen organizers in the area and the effort is entirely run and financed by volunteers.
“It started in 2010 when there was a ruling in the Supreme Court that said corporations are people and money is equal to free speech. That opened the floodgates to a whole hell of a lot of money coming into the system. And your vote doesn’t count anymore. If you got a lot of money, your vote counts,” Holland said.
Holland said this is his first political activism and “the key is it’s nonpartisan.” He encourages anyone wanting to get involved to find out more about Wisconsin United to Amend at wiuta.org.