Condos: National Issues Have Place At Town Meeting

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(Host) Secretary of State Jim Condos says it’s up to individual towns to decide if they want to consider national issues on Town Meeting Day.

And Condos says it’s fine with him if a community wants to consider a resolution calling for a proposed federal constitutional amendment to overturn a key U.S. Supreme Court decision.

VPR Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Next week, roughly 50 towns will vote on a resolution that supports the passage of a proposed federal Constitutional amendment that would overturn a U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United.

By a 5 to 4 margin, the Court ruled that corporations essentially have the same First Amendment rights as individuals and the decision has led to the proliferation of Super Pacs during the 2012 campaign.

In a number of cases, these groups are spending millions of dollars on TV ads to criticize specific candidates in the Republican Presidential campaign and the Super Pacs are expected to play a prominent role in the general election.

Secretary of State Jim Condos says Vermont law is clear about placing resolutions dealing with national issues on a Town Meeting ballot. That authority rests with local officials:

(Condos) "This has been upheld by the Supreme Court, the Vermont Supreme Court. They do not have to place a petitioned question on the ballot if it doesn’t have anything to do with what is under the authority of the town. So you could argue that if there is a national issue that it is inappropriate to be on the ballot."

(Kinzel) Condos says he has serious concerns about the Citizens United decision and that it’s appropriate for local voters to consider this issue if the members of their select board support this approach.

(Condos) "My own personal feeling is that it’s really up to the town to make that decision. They’re the ones that have to decide that’s what the select board is there for. My own personal belief is I do think that Citizens United ought to be reversed. I think it was a mistake by the Supreme Court but that’s a completely different issue."

(Kinzel) Condos says the presidential primary election marks the first time that 17 year olds will be able to vote in Vermont. That’s because several years ago, voters gave their strong support to an amendment to the Vermont Constitution that allows a 17 year old voter to cast a ballot in the primary election, if their 18th birthday comes before November’s General Election.

However, Condos says these younger voters won’t be able to vote on local town issues until they actually turn 18.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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