Questions on ballot cover range

Non-binding measures seek to build support

By Jim Morrison, The Sun Chronicle

In addition to deciding on three statewide ballot questions Tuesday, area voters could see several non-binding referendum questions regarding campaign donations, the selection and retention of judges and voter identification.

This year’s statewide ballot includes binding questions about the legalization of medical marijuana, physician-assisted suicide and better access to auto repair. If passed, these initiatives would become law.

But voters across the commonwealth will be asked their opinion on a number of issues that won’t have the power of law, but can be used to build support among state lawmakers.

One example is an issue on the ballot in Attleboro, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville and Wrentham that would urge Congress to propose a constitutional amendment affirming that corporations are not people.

Such an amendment would overturn the controversial Citizen’s United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that allows corporations to make unlimited donations to political action committees.

Citizens for a Democracy Amendment is a self-described grassroots group that has placed the question on almost a third of the ballots in the state.

The group’s spokeswoman, Pam Wilmot says that the 2010 Citizens United decision “opened the floodgates for corporate and special interest groups to enter into the election process to an extent we’ve never seen before. And it’s putting our democracy in peril.”

Wilmot says the group collected 20,000 signatures in support of the question this summer, but they were too late to get on the statewide ballot.

Non-binding questions are approved by individual county districts, which do not always follow town borders. The first three questions on all Massachusetts ballots will be the same, but the questions after that, if any, may not be identical to the ones your neighbor sees across town.

The ballots in North Attleboro and Mansfield Precincts 1 and 5 will include a question that would direct their state representative to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment that would require judges be elected to six-year terms. The proposal would also prevent them from raising money or campaigning.

Massachusetts judges are currently appointed by the governor, approved by the governor’s council and serve for life.

Ballots in Rehoboth, Seekonk, Norton, Foxboro and Precincts 2,3 and 6 of Mansfield will include a question asking voters to direct their state representative to vote in favor of requiring voters to show government-issued picture ID before voting.

Local attorney and chairman of the Mansfield Board of Selectmen Olivier Koslowski tried to get a binding voter ID question on the statewide ballot, but the initiative was rejected by Attorney General Martha Coakley and he fell about 500,000 short of the 700,000 signatures required.

Nonbinding questions require 200 signatures to appear on the ballot in a particular district, so Koslowski reworded the question and got it on the ballot in the 1st, 4th, and 6th Bristol Districts.

“A government-issued picture ID is a common sense thing to do,” Koslowski said. “At the end of the day, voter fraud is a crime and it should be harder to get away with than it is now.”

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