Move to Amend
Democracy in your mailbox
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Starting Monday, registered voters living in Salt Lake City will be asked to reacquaint themselves with a couple of quaint ideas.

One is the promise that there might be something in your mailbox that you actually want to read. The other is the belief that the United States of America is, at least in part, a democratic society, where the will of the people should matter.

And when we say people, we mean real, live, breathing, red-blooded people. Not corporations, which hide behind the legal fiction of personhood to do everything from acquiring property to spending billions of dollars to tilt the outcome of elections, the judicial system and other pillars of our democracy.

Monday is the day the Office of the Salt Lake City Recorder, at the direction of the City Council, is to mail to each registered voter in the city an envelope containing a ballot. On that ballot is something called the We the People Amendment, which each voter may vote for or against.

If a majority of the voters favor the amendment, there will be no immediate result, no law passed, person elected or tax authorized. That's because this is an advisory question only.

But it is a big question.

Backers of the amendment, an organization called Move To Amend, are asking the people of Salt Lake City to join some 500 other communities in seeking to amend the Constitution of the United States to make two things clear.

One, for all legal purposes, including constitutional and legal rights, a person is only a real, living person, not a corporation. And two, that money spent for the purpose of influencing an election or currying the favor of a public official does not qualify as speech, so that such spending can be regulated without running afoul of the First Amendment.

Both notions might be thought to be simple common sense. But both of them have effectively been swept aside by various decisions of the U. S. Supreme Court. So, in order to make those principles stand up again, no simple law will suffice. The Constitution must be amended.

Move to Amend circulated petitions to put this question on a regular city election ballot, but the lawyers figured out that, under Utah law, a question that does not actually pass or repeal a local law does not qualify for such placement. To its credit, the City Council created this alternate way of measuring public opinion.

Voters have until Sept. 26 to return their ballots. It is an example of, and a call for, democracy too seldom seen these days. Don't miss it.