Referendum on November ballot in Winnebago County is raising questions

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 5:00 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) -With less than 45 days until Election Day, everyone is aware of the top candidates on the ballot. But, a referendum in Winnebago County is raising a lot of questions.

Winnebago County Clerk Sue Ertmer has seen plenty of referendums on the ballot during her time in office, but it’s the question being posed to voters in Winnebago County, this November, that has drawn a lot of attention.

According to Ertmer, “A lot of calls, a lot of emails. The referendum question that the county has on the ballot has really intrigued people and concerned some, but they just weren’t quite sure what the question is.”

The referendum reads, “Should the state legislature enact proposed legislation to support passage of an amendment to the united sates constitution that seeks to reclaim democracy from the expansion of corporate personhood rights and the corrupting influence of unlimited political contributions and spending.”

County board supervisor Stephanie Spellman is one of two supervisors who asked the board to put the question on the ballot.

“Super PACs and dark money can spend unlimited amounts of money to get someone elected,” she says. Adding, “This referendum would ask the people of Winnebago County if they are okay with that.”

An answer of yes means voters believes there should be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would limit political contributions and spending. A no vote means citizens don’t see a need to change the Constitution. While this particular question may be new to voters in Winnebago County, it’s something that has been on other ballots before.

Ertmer adds, “Various groups have been promoting this referendum question around the country and around the State of Wisconsin for, I looked back, I think it’s been already ten years already so they’re sort of doing it in different locations over a span of a few years.”

The question is simply an advisory, and whether it’s passed or not won’t affect any state law or statute.

“We would need the Senate and the House and the Federal Government to be able to change this and change the constitution by adding an amendment,” says Spellman.

Winnebago County voters who still have questions about the amendment are encouraged to reach out to their county supervisor for clarification.

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