The state Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for Californians to vote in November, if the Legislature approves, on whether to urge Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution and overturn the Citizens United ruling, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns. The state justices had blocked a vote on the same measure initiated by the Legislature in 2014, saying it was not clear that California lawmakers had the power to put an advisory measure on the ballot. But in a 6-1 ruling Monday, the court said the Legislature’s power to “investigate” issues includes asking the public for advice on whether to seek a nationwide constitutional amendment.
The principles of a democratic republic “generally permit representatives to inquire of the people on fundamental matters,” even though the public vote would not be binding, said Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar in the majority opinion.
She also noted that the California Constitution since 1849 has guaranteed to the people “the right to instruct their representatives.”
Dissenting Justice Ming Chin said the state ballot was intended for electing representatives and making laws, not for voting on “legally meaningless” advisory measures. He noted that the court had ruled in 1984 that initiatives, placed on the ballot by the public, could not be used for advisory votes.
Chin said the same restriction should apply to legislative ballot measures.