Many communities will see more than 3 ballot questions

By Chelsea Sheasley, Metro West Daily News

BOSTON – Voters in more than 100 Bay State cities and towns will have a chance to express their opinions on national campaign finance law and strategies to fix the federal deficit when they vote on Tuesday.

Two nonbinding resolutions have made it onto the ballots of more than half of the cities and town in the state.

One of the resolutions, the so-called “democracy amendment,” is in response to the controversial 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that unlimited corporate spending in elections is protected free speech.

Voters in 120 cities and towns across the state, including Hudson, Marlborough, Southborough, Westborough and parts of Northborough and Sudbury, will be asked if they support calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to make a distinction between corporations and individuals.

“It’s not an easy task to amend the Constitution, so we need to have everyone know about it and know why it’s important,” said Pam Wilmot, director of the nonprofit good-government organization Common Cause Massachusetts, which helped raise enough signatures to put the question on local ballots.

Voters in 91 cities and towns in the state, including some precincts in Framingham, Marlborough, Millis, Natick, Sherborn, Sudbury and Wayland, will see a different policy question on their ballot that asks whether they support a nonbinding resolution that calls for federal deficit reduction without any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits and other social programs.

Instead, those voting for the ballot question would support the closing of corporate loopholes, raising taxes on the wealthy and redirecting military spending.

“The purpose is to rearrange our priorities and to use the federal budget to support the welfare of American families of all different social strata,” said Paul Shannon, spokesman for a coalition of peace, community organizing, housing and union groups that support the question.

Although nonbinding resolutions simply express voter opinion, supporters say they are a useful strategy to raise awareness and harness public opinion.

“This is one more effort to build momentum for a federal constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United,” said Wilmot. “We’re doing a number of things.”

Other steps Common Cause has taken include getting the state Legislature and 73 municipalities to pass resolutions in favor of an amendment.

Shannon agrees that the point of a nonbinding question is to launch a community dialogue.

“The overall goal is to change the discussion,” he said. “We’re hoping the referendum will give people a chance to see that their neighbors and friends feel the same way they do.”

The coalition behind the deficit reduction resolution counts U.S. Reps. Barney Frank, Michael Capuano, Ed Markey and Jim McGovern, all Democrats, as supporters.

The coalition website quotes McGovern as saying, “We need a new activism, a budget that reflects the values of this country. … I look forward to reading in Congress the list of communities that has passed it.”

A nonbinding policy question can get on the ballot if supporters gather the signatures of 1,200 voters in a state senatorial district or 200 voters in a state representative district.

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