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Region backing ‘Granny D’ article

Voters weigh in with message to Congress and the President

  • Voters at the Sharon Town Meeting on March 11, 2014, voted to support a petition asking Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to reverse a 2010 Supreme Court decision and regulate political spending.
  • Dublin Town Meeting, March 2014.

Voters in most towns throughout the region were in favor of a petition article calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overrule the 2010 Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, — which cut back restrictions on corporate spending in elections — and to clarify that the rights afforded by the American Constitution apply to people, not corporations.

Locally, the amendment passed in all the towns where it was on the budget except in Greenville, where it was tabled.

When Mary Loftis introduced the resolution at Dublin’s Town Meeting on Saturday, she noted it had been dubbed the “Doris ‘Granny D’ Haddock” warrant article. “Doris was one of the most illustrious of Dublin’s citizens,” Loftis said.

The measure passed in Dublin on a voice vote, but there were some reservations expressed.

Loftis described the Citizens United ruling, which was issued just before Haddock died in 2010, as an assault on democracy.

Patrick Armstrong, speaking in support of the petition, said, “Basically if money talks, Citizens United gave it a voice that can drown out the rest of us. I think [Granny D] would also be in favor of this.”

But Janice Roberts said she’s against the federal government regulating how people spend their money. It’s up to the voters to inform themselves, she said, and vote accordingly.

Seth Farmer countered with, “I think this is the single most important issue facing our country, our democracy today... This is corporate America we’re defending ourselves against, and they’ve infiltrated so many parts of our life.”

In Jaffrey, voters went back and forth on the issue, some speaking in favor and others against, but they ultimately supported in on a voice vote.

Bill Raymond spoke against the article, saying it sets a bad precedent and could mean judicial chaos if citizens vote to overturn Supreme Court decisions whenever they don’t agree with them.

Frank Sterling agreed with Raymond, saying he was against limiting campaign contributions.

“I have problems with a constitutional amendment that would limit my right to contribute to anyone I feel that represents the viewpoints that I espouse,” said Sterling. “I should be able to give as much money as I want so they can get their message out to the public.

“I support my right to contribute money to whom I please,” he added.

Richard Ames, a state representative, spoke in support of the article. He said a resolution similar to the petition article passed in the House last year, in a 189 to 139 vote. It went to the Senate but was not voted on.

“I think that corporations have much greater financial resources than individuals and they should be dedicated to the purposes for which they were formed, not political campaigns,” said Ames on Monday. “There should be limits on their usage of funds and right now there are none.”

In Hancock, the petition article squeaked through by just one vote. By the end of the five-hour town meeting, only about a quarter of the more than 200 voters who had been in attendance earlier remained, and they supported the petition article by a margin of 23 to 22.

Michelle Russell, speaking in support of the article, said the Supreme Court ruling means there are no longer any restraints on what corporations can spend, but Dave Carney called the petition “ridiculous,” saying it was far too broadly written.

“To limit freedom of speech is not the way to go,” Carney said.

After the measure passed, Carney asked the Select Board members if the written notice they send to the state’s congressional delegation, the state legislators and President Obama will include the actual voting count for Hancock. He was assured that it would.

In Francestown, Lawrie Barr brought forward the petition article, and it passed on a voice vote.

Greenville voters had the issue on the town warrant, but chose not to vote on it, agreeing by a vote of 20 to 17 to table the article without discussion.

According to Olivia Zink, the program director for the Coalition for Open Democracy and the New Hampshire organizer for a group called Move to Amend, 56 communities in the state have voted on the petition article, with 44 voted in favor and 12 against. It will appear on the ballot in Peterborough and a number of other New Hampshire towns that hold Town Meetings in May.

Nationally, more than 500 towns and communities have passed similar resolutions, Zink said on Monday.

“Our democracy is really corrupted by the influence of money in our political system,” said Zink. “We need a 28th amendment to re-establish our democracy.”

David Cobb, a national spokesperson for Move to Amend, will be at the Peterborough Library on Saturday at 6 p.m. to speak about the issue.

Priscilla Morrill, Dave Anderson and Ashley Saari contributed to this report.

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