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Needham Voters To See 'Citizens United' Questions

The issue will be back before residents on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Needham residents will have quite a few decisions to make on Nov. 6—from who should be the nation’s next president to whether wine and beer should be sold in town to the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Residents will also join more than 150 communities across Massachusetts in voting on a nonbinding question that, if approved, would direct legislators to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s saying that we the people, who are voting on this, want Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that says that corporations do not have the same rights as human people and that the legislature should be able to pass laws regulating political spending and campaign contributions,” said Harmony Wu, a Needham activist and supporter of the issue.

Many Needham residents saw a similar question at the 2012 Annual Town Meeting, when a majority of members approved the measure following about an hour of debate. The Town Meeting article urged the town’s state representatives to support a constitutional amendment.

In June, the Massachusetts legislature did pass a resolution that called upon Congress to enact a constitutional amendment.

Proponents are hoping the response to this new question—which represents the voices of thousands of voters across the commonwealth—will further underline the importance of a constitutional amendment.

“It’s nonbinding, and some might say, what’s the point?” Wu said. “The bigger rationale is that this is an avenue by which people have to organize and mobilize, and when we do this, it becomes part of a large voice calling for change. We’re just trying to make it so that the powers that be can’t ignore this movement.”

Because the threshold for getting a question on the ballot for a senate district is higher than getting a question on the ballot for a legislative district, and the efforts to collect signatures by the deadline were divided, Needham residents in each of the town’s two districts will see different questions on Nov. 6, Wu said.

Voters in precincts A-C, I and J will see a question instructing both the senator and the representative to support an amendment (Questions 4 and 5), while voters in precincts D-H will only see a question instructing the representative to do so (Question 5).

The wording of all questions is as follows (substituting senator or representative depending on the district):

Shall the state senator [or state representative] from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. constitution affirming that (1) corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings, and (2) both Congress and the states may place limits on political contributions and political spending?

Placing the questions on the ballot at an election with a highly anticipated turnout will also help make voters more aware of the issue overall, Wu said.

“It’s a public education campaign as well. By seeing the question on the ballot, it increases awareness,” she said.

Also on the ballot

Needham voters in precincts D-H will see a second nonbinding question on the Nov. 6 ballot—one that lays out a list of directives for Congress and the president. Question 4 asks:

Shall the state senator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to: (1) prevent cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits, or to housing, food and unemployment assistance; (2) create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services; (3) provide new revenues for these purposes and to reduce the long-term federal deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending offshore tax havens, and raising taxes on incomes over $250,000; and 94) redirect military spending to these domestic needs by reducing the military budget, ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home safely now?

For more on the Nov. 6 election, check out Needham Patch’s 2012 Election Guide—and be sure to read the town clerk’s instructions for voters for the special town election that will take place the same day.

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