Along with receiving the official Lincoln County vote tally from the November 4th general election, County Commissioner Bill Hall also reported that the overwhelmingly passed Anti-Citizens United advisory measure will be forwarded to Governor John Kitzhaber, state lawmakers and Oregon’s Congressional Delegation. The proclamation is to declare that 70% of Lincoln County voters oppose the heavy influence of corporate money pouring into state and national elections that was made possible by the infamous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says corporations are actual people, thereby citizens of the United States; and therefore no limits can be placed on how much election campaign money they can spend.
The Occupy Newport group who proposed the advisory measure to the commissioners, who in turn put it on the ballot, said they will now investigate teaming up with other Occupy groups throughout Oregon to press top state and federal officials to pressure the Congress to launch a Constitutional Amendment process to declare that corporations are not people in the legal sense of the word and that they be stripped of the ability to make unlimited campaign contributions.
A few Occupy members attended the commissioners meeting and the reading of the advisory measure. Occupy member Stephen Farish reminded the commissioners of the importance of what Lincoln County voters said on the issue – 70% voting in favor of overruling the Supreme Court’s ruling that corporations are people with all the rights of a natural person. Co-supporter Steve Myers echoed Farish’s statements adding that America’s democracy is under attack by well healed political operatives whose own interests do not align with the vast majority of the American people.
Commissioner Terry Thompson agreed that the country faces a great political challenge which has fostered much arguing between Democrats and Republicans. But he add, “Citizens United is not a partisan issue; it’s an American issue.” Commissioner Doug Hunt, like Thompson, was initially reluctant to place the issue on the ballot which they saw as a national issue, not a local one. But like Thompson he eventually saw that it would be worthwhile to give Lincoln County voters a voice that would be heard around the county, the state capital and in Washington D.C. Hunt said “It’s nice to take part in a positive effect in the midst of a strong political dispute. The will of the people has been expressed to elected officials; they’ll have that thought in mind.” Commissioner Bill Hall, the first to express his strong support for putting the issue on the Lincoln County ballot said that indeed the people have spoken and that our country’s political leaders will hopefully heed the message. County Counsel Wayne Belmont said about 100 similar anti-Citizens United ballot issues passed nationwide.
The Constitution Amendment Process
There are essentially two ways spelled out in the Constitution on how to propose an amendment.
The first method is for a bill (proposed amendment) to pass both houses of the Congress, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it is forwarded to the 50 state legislatures for ratification or denial. This is the route that has been taken by all Constitutional Amendments. Because of several long-pending amendments, such as the 27th, Congress will normally put a time limit (typically seven years) for the bill to be approved as an amendment. If it isn’t, it remains “pending.”
Of the thousands of proposals that have been offered to amend the Constitution, only 33 have won a two-thirds vote in Congress. Of those, only 27 have been ratified by three-quarters of the states’ legislatures.
The second method is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures among the states, and for the Convention to draw up one or more amendments. The amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This option has never been exercised.
Because the amendment process is so cumbersome, many political pragmatists predict that it might be faster to wait for three expected Supreme Court Justice retirements to be announced and have President Obama appoint their replacements. Then the Court could take up Citizens United again and possibly overturn the earlier ruling.