Grassroots efforts across the United States are key to the success of the 28th Amendment. One model of locally grown success can be found in Wisconsin, where 17 communities recently voted yes on referenda to support an amendment—making more than 160 communities who have now passed resolutions, together representing more than 3 million Wisconsinites. It’s a prime example of how collective power can create big change—in Wisconsin and across America.
In the recent spring election, voters in 17 Wisconsin communities overwhelmingly voted in support of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reduce the influence of big money in politics. That makes a total of 163 Wisconsin communities—representing almost 3.2 million residents—that have called for an amendment.
These election successes reflect the citizen-led advocacy work by members of Wisconsin United to Amend, a nonpartisan American Promise partner organization launched in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that removed restrictions on political contributions from corporations and unions. Wisconsin United to Amend has collaborated with community organizations for the past 8 years to engage communities and advocates and gain support for the amendment.
Citizen leader George Penn joined Wisconsin United to Amend in 2012 and has since worked passionately to build the movement in his state and across the country so that government represents the wishes of We the People rather than big money. American Promise checked in with George to learn more about the recent successes and how the organization plans to continue to grow the amendment movement in Wisconsin.
What citizen-led efforts were key to the successes during the recent election?
George Penn: We had several teams that engaged activists in the towns in these rural communities. They found champions in each town and worked with them to request that the local boards put the United to Amend referendum on the ballot.
Why is this an issue you and other Wisconsin citizens are passionate about? Why do you choose to focus your energies on advancing the amendment?
GP: A vast majority of American citizens know that We the People are no longer represented—and that the corrupted political system will not resolve any of the problems our nation is facing. Wisconsin United to Amend members across the state understand that big money in politics is the root cause for our eviscerated democracy, and it will take an amendment to fix this root problem.
How long have you been involved with the amendment effort in Wisconsin?
GP: United to Amend was formed less than a month after the Citizens United ruling and has grown and expanded strategies continuously since then.
What advice would you give other citizen leaders hoping to advance similar change in their states?
GP: Find a couple of committed leaders who will focus on this work and find champions across the state to work on building the movement to get the amendment.
What is the status of resolutions introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature calling for a statewide vote on Citizens United?
GP: We will continue passing resolutions as one strategy to build the movement to force action in the future on the state level. We know this is a long game. The 17 referenda passed this election brings us to 163 resolutions passed with a statewide average YES vote of 81%.
What are the next steps for your group/citizen leaders in Wisconsin?
GP: We will continue to pass resolutions. We are stepping up our efforts to get faith congregations and associations to pass similar resolutions while educating their members. We hope to start approaching small businesses in 2021 to support our call for the amendment.
Want to get involved in your state? Join or start your own local American Promise Chapter.
Live in Wisconsin? Learn more about Wisconsin United to Amend.