California Common Cause joined with Free Speech For People and other public interest groups in filing a brief this week with the California Supreme Court urging it to give voters a chance to call for the reversal of the Citizens United ruling. Proposition 49 is a voter instruction measure that allows voters to tell Congress to propose, and legislators to ratify, a constitutional amendment to establish that corporations are not people and that unlimited campaign spending is not free speech.
The California legislature placed Proposition 49 on the ballot after receiving 55,000 petitions signatures, 40,000 e-mails, and 176,000 faxes from Common Cause members and other Californians in the Money Out Voters In coalition.
In a surprise move last summer, the California Supreme Court temporarily removed Proposition 49 from the ballot, arguing that the legislature does not have the authority to place voter instruction measures on the ballot. The research in our brief found otherwise, specifically:
- Article I, Section 3(a) says that “the people have the right to instruct their representatives.”
- This collective right to instruct is separate from our right to individually petition our government.
- The legislature has referred multiple voter instruction measures to the ballot in our history, including one at the same time that our constitutional convention was drafting our right to instruct. So its clear that our constitution grants the legislature the ability to do this.
In fact, early Californians felt so strongly about the right to instruct that they expected legislators who did not agree with instructions from their constituents to resign.
Based upon the research in this brief, which the Court has not previously considered, we are optimistic that the Court will place Prop 49 back on the ballot. We’ll keep you posted.