This proposition, whether it passes or fails, has no legal effect
It is purely an advisory
measure, or "voter instruction," advising California's elected officials to use their authority to try to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission
– a ruling that, as the left puts it, allows unlimited political spending by corporations. As conservatives would put it, it protects free speech against government – an essential part of democracy – by protecting how money is spent to communicate. A Yes
on 59 tells the state government you want it to use its authority to propose an amendment to the US Constitution overturning Citizens United. A No
on 59 tells them, "Nah, it's cool."
Okay, so let's ignore the fact that your vote on this proposition literally does nothing legally, regardless of whether it passes or fails.
Should you care about Citizens United? Probably – it's a hot-button issue. In 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled
that spending limits of corporations are unconstitutional because it limits how they can communicate, thus limiting the First Amendment. This eventually led to other groups having the same unlimited spending. Ultimately, this lead to the creation of Super PACs
, groups that can spend unlimited amounts of money on politcal campaigns, and do not have to disclose donors.
As a result, it's been argued that money has unfairly influenced politics. Since 2010, outside campaign spending has rapidly increased
, with conservatives organized better than the left.
The right would argue
that it's actually leveled the playing field, allowing smaller groups to speak up, and the left has benefitted more from this
. Interestingly, when people were polled
, they think both sides have benefitted equally.
Regardless, according to 2015 poll
, a majority of Americans, left and right, think that money has too much influence on politics, that campaign finance needs total reform, and that funding should be limited and publicly disclosed.
It's not specified what exactly legislators would propose should Prop 59 pass, but there are the three ways overturn a SCOTUS
- Congress, with two-thirds vote, proposes a Consitutional amendment. 38 state legislatures approve it.
- 33 states propose a Constitutional amendment. 38 state legislatures approve it.
- SCOTUS overrules itself in a future case.
All are very difficult and unlikely, but at this moment, 17 states have called to overturn Citizens United, and 5 have called for a Constitutional amendment.[..]
After intense legal battles,
it's on the ballot, with much scorn from the Governor, who has argued that we should not even be voting on non-binding advisory measures such as this. A Yes on Prop 59 would send a message to the state legislature and the rest of the US that Citizens United should be overturned. A No would not legally stop the movement, but would significantly dampen it.