We celebrate with many Ohioans the defeat of Issue 1 on August 8, but efforts to create an authentic democracy are ongoing.
While it is true that Issue 1 was an indirect vote on abortion, the Ohio legislature’s proposed amendment was first and foremost an attack on direct democracy, the process by which citizens can use ballot measures to create (i.e. initiatives) or reverse (i.e. referendums) laws or recall (remove) elected officials as a means of holding state officials (i.e. legislators and the governor) accountable when they fail to govern in the best interests of the people.
But it is also true that, as both supporters and opponents of Issue 1 pointed out, ballot measures can be—indeed, they are—manipulated by big money from the ultra wealthy and large corporations.
This is why the concept “one person, one vote” can never be a truly legitimate exercise of democratic principles until we abolish once and for all the misguided doctrine “one dollar, one vote,” established by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that money spent on political campaigns is a protected form of First Amendment free speech rights, first established in the 1976 Buckley vs Valeo decision.
Authentic democracy involves more than simply voting in elections. It includes the ability to make decisions, as democratically as possible, that cannot be hijacked or perverted by corporate entities that, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, can preempt local or state laws by claiming violation of constitutional rights they were never intended to have.
Thus, we must not only end the doctrine that “money equals free speech,” we must also abolish the idea that corporate entities have inherent, inalienable, constitutional rights. That’s why we need an amendment to the U.S. Constitution—and we need it now.
The proposed We the People Amendment (HJR54), recently introduced for the sixth time in the U.S. House of Representatives, is designed to fix the problem of corporate rule and big money in politics. It makes clear that constitutional rights belong to natural persons only, not to chartered corporate entities, and that money spent on political campaigns shall be regulated.
Here in Ohio, representatives in both houses of the General Assembly have introduced resolutions calling for such an amendment to the nation’s governing document. More than 700 communities and 8 states nationally have taken such a position.
In light of state legislators’ very reasonable concerns about the influence of out-of-state, deep-pocket special interests, the We the People Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should enjoy bipartisan support. Without it, ballot initiatives, referendums and recalls can be corrupted to benefit corporate interests and those individuals of immense wealth.
Citizens said NO on Issue 1. It’s now time to say YES to the We the People Amendment.