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Should corporate money be limited in elections? Opinion ballot asks Salt Lake City residents

Published: Saturday, Sept. 14 2013 2:05 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake City residents have received mail-in ballots asking whether they agree that corporations are not the same as individuals when it comes to constitutional rights and that limiting corporate money is not the same as limiting political speech.

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SALT LAKE CITY — In the age of billion-dollar political campaigns, there is an effort to stem the influence of some of the biggest donors of all to the political parties: corporations.

Salt Lake City residents recently received mail-in ballots that are basically a public opinion poll. The ballot asks whether voters agree that corporations are not the same as individuals when it comes to constitutional rights and that limiting corporate money is not the same as limiting political speech.

“They're entities that are all-powerful, that have incredible amounts of money, thousands of lobbyists, lawyers working for them 24/7, and their chief role is to amass a huge amount of profit,” said Ashley Sanders, one of the people leading the Move to Amend effort.

Last year, the group behind the ballot collected enough signatures to get the question on the November ballot, but Salt Lake City rejected the initiative because, if passed, it would not result in a law.

The opinion question process was approved by the City Council in October 2012. The ballot represents a nonbinding resolution on corporate personhood, which gives corporations the rights that are only supposed to belong to human beings, Sanders said.

“Basically, it’s a trump card to use against the people when they make a decision that works for their communities but doesn't work for the corporate bottom line,” Sanders said.

About 500 cities have already passed similar measures, and Move to Amend is pushing to amend the U.S. Constitution.

The city recorder's office sent out 80,604 ballots in the mail. It's been confusing for some residents who are unaccustomed to any mail-in ballots from the city.

“There have been a lot of calls from people, wondering if it's a legitimate election and a legitimate city ballot. A lot of people (are) questioning the use of taxpayer funds for this process,” said Cindi Mansell, city recorder.

It will cost the city $70,000 to administer, but the mayor and City Council say this avenue to give this effort a voice is worth it.

“I think they wanted to create a process where any citizens group could bring forth this type of issue,” Mansell said. “I think they felt it was important enough.”

The pre-addressed return envelopes with enclosed ballots must be returned to the Office of the City Recorder, 415 S. State, Room 415, or postmarked on or before 5 p.m. on Sept. 26.

For more information about the opinion question, visit www.slcgov.com/node/1628.

Email: rpiatt@deseretnews.com

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