Local Move to Amend activists are heading into the home stretch in several suburban communities but bracing for a fight in Wayne Township.
Move to Amend is a national organization dedicated to amending the United States Constitution to make clear money is not speech and only human beings -- not corporations -- are entitled to constitutional protections. Groups formed across the country in response to the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that opened up elections to unlimited corporate and organized labor donations.
Kris Deyne, of Wayne Township, has been working to get a nonbinding advisory referendum question on the November ballot in her community, asking voters to weigh in on whether the constitution should be amended.
"Move to Amend is getting corporate money out of our elections," Deyne said. "Corporations are not people, people are people."
Deyne and fellow Wayne Township resident Frank Esposito filed a request for a special meeting with the township clerk July 6. The goal was to get the question on the ballot through a vote at the special meeting, when registered township voters are given the same decision-making power as trustees.
Even though Illinois law says the meeting must be scheduled within 45 days of the request, township officials still have not done so. The law makes clear a written statement must explain why the meeting is necessary for the interests of the township and detail the point of the meeting, which must be relevant to the powers granted to electors. Esposito said township officials have argued the meeting does not have to be held based on their legal interpretation of the Illinois code.
Supervisor Tom Arends could not be reached for comment.
The deadline to get a question on the ballot is Aug. 20 but Esposito, Deyne and other supporters from DuPage Coffeehouse Move to Amend plan to press ahead regardless of the timetable.
"We don't feel it's right for a township -- that we pay taxes to fund -- to turn us down when we want to enact our rights and promote democracy," Esposito said. The group is looking for pro-bono legal help to try to force the township to hold the special meeting and, if necessary, stop the state board of elections from printing the township ballots until the matter is resolved.
In Naperville Township, members of DuPage Coffeehouse Move to Amend filed a similar request and hope to approve the ballot question Wednesday. The special meeting is set to start at 6 p.m. at the Pre-Emption House at the Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville. Township voters should show up at 5:30 p.m. to sign in and verify their registration.
Besides the special meeting tactic, Move to Amend organizers have collected signatures to get the question on November ballots as well. Kane County activists submitted 14,386 signatures Monday, safely surpassing the 12,000 minimum requirement.
And in Warrenville, organizers submitted 492 signatures; they needed 343 to get on the ballot.
Once the Aug. 13 deadline for petition challenges passes, the Kane County and Warrenville ballot questions will be official. Resolution will come for Naperville Township Wednesday night with the special meeting vote.
Lisle Township already approved the question for the ballot, as did the city of Chicago.
Steve Alesch, also of DuPage Coffeehouse, said the nonbinding ballot initiatives are necessary to make change from the bottom up, even though they won't guarantee any immediate action for an amendment.
"We would love Congress to just listen to us right now and pass the amendment, send it to the states, have them ratify it and it goes into law," Alesch said. "But it's probably not going to happen unless the people force it to happen -- and that's how every amendment has worked."