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Delegate Meshea Poore : We need to vote on Citizens United

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of government's roles within this great democracy is making sure everyone has a voice.

Over the course of history, steps have been taken when it became apparent that while the needs of certain segments of society were being widely communicated in the legislative and governing processes, the needs of certain others were not.

In fact, when the House of Delegates district I represent was first created in 1991, it was intended to serve that very specific purpose: to ensure that all Kanawha County residents were properly represented.

So what does it say to the voters of my district and to voters across the country when the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a corporate interest, controlled by an anonymous select few, can spend an unlimited amount of money to spread its individual perspective?

Unfortunately, the underlying message to voters is money wins the day. If you don't have as much money, you don't have the right for your voice to be heard. Because absent any limits or regulation on such spending, the average participant in the election process will be drowned out by these massively wealthy political groups.

That is why I sponsored, and the House voted in favor of, House Resolution 9, calling on the U.S. Congress to propose a constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

We note in the resolution that the use of super PACs by wealthy individuals and special interests nationally has driven up the cost of elections to over $6 billion in the federal elections alone and reduced local voices in the democratic process.

During the floor discussion regarding this resolution, House Judiciary Vice Chairman Tim Manchin said that money, often referred to as the root of all evil, is especially so when it comes to politics -- a very bad combination. Very true.

And when you add the third element upheld by the Citizens United decision, secrecy, I believe it is a toxic combination.

Not only are we allowing corporations for all practical purposes to "buy" election results, we are no longer allowed to know the source of their funding.

Our resolution calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to establish that corporations and labor unions are not entitled to the same rights and protection as natural persons under the Constitution and that the federal, state and local governments should have the power to limit, regulate and require disclosure of sources of all money spent to influence elections.

And I believe there is impetus for this corrective change.

On Election Day 2012, more than 6 million voters across the country had the opportunity to vote on state and local ballot measures, including the states of Montana and Colorado, calling for a constitutional amendment to limit money in politics, and all proposed resolutions passed with overwhelming and bipartisan support.

It's time to let the voters of this country decide this matter, which is vital to the integrity of our election process and to the equality of our citizens.

Poore, a lawyer in Charleston, is a delegate for Kanawha's 37th District.


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