Corporations aren't people, an overwhelming 75 percent of Missoula voters said Tuesday, and they don't want corporations treated like people either.
"I'm over the moon about it," said Councilwoman Cynthia Wolken, who brought the referendum to the Missoula City Council to place on the ballot.
The measure - similar to others across the country - calls on the U.S. Congress and state leaders to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that "corporations are not human beings." It earned 10,729 votes in favor and 3,605 against.
The resolution isn't binding, but it does send a message that's gaining momentum nationwide. Wolken said she planned on being satisfied to capture more than 50 percent of the vote, "really happy" with more than 60 percent, and "over the moon" with anything more.
"Basically, it affirmed what we were all seeing on the streets, which is the average Missoulian wanted to have their voice heard ... and they want their elected officials to fix the problem of corporate personhood," Wolken said. "So I hope this message is heard and we get started on fixing the problem."
As she sees it, corporations have been given too much power, and as stated in the Missoula resolution, their "profits and survival are often in direct conflict with the essential needs and rights of human beings."
The movement to amend the U.S. Constitution launched in earnest in January 2010 after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision on Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, overruling two precedents. It stated the government can't ban campaign spending on elections by corporations because that would be unduly regulating speech.
According to the local resolution, the ruling on Citizens United corrupts one foundation of democracy by "rolling back legal limits on corporate spending in the electoral process."
"(The decision) ... allows unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection, policy decisions and sway votes," reads the Missoula resolution.
Councilwoman Wolken said the Missoula city clerk likely will prepare a letter to send to state and national leaders urging the amendment once the office has finished work on a more pressing priority, replacing the Municipal Court judge. She also said she expects action from state legislators as well.
"I have no doubt that when the legislative session starts back up, that this will be on the top of the list," Wolken said.