Democracy Day is an outgrowth of the Occupy movement. The Occupy Defiance group was formed In the Fall of 2011 and began meeting weekly. Out of these meetings the focus became corporate personhood and the Move to Amend effort.
Some time was spent as we waited to learn about the method which Brecksville OH was adopting. They were attempting to put a ballot issue before the voters. We decided to do the same. After we got the wording of the Brecksville petition, we made the changes needed to present it to the City of Defiance. We took it to the finance Director as a notification to the City. Then we began the process going door to door gathering signatures.
During the Summer of 2012 a core group of five or six people began canvassing the city of Defiance getting signatures to the petition which would put the proposed ordinance on the ballot. Over the course of the summer we were able to obtain 866 valid signatures.
Somehow the explanation of the proper procedures did not make clear the steps to take. We did not get the petitions to the proper office at the proper time. We were unable to get the ordinance on the November 2012 ballot, even though we had the proper number of signatures.
In 2013 we were happy to learn that the Board of Elections and city officials worked together to allow us to put the ordinance on the November 2013 ballot. By that time the Occupy Defiance group had dwindled from a few to hardly any. In spite of that, three of us were able to get hand-outs to doorknobs of all the people who had signed the petition reminding them to vote. The ordinance passed with a 67% vote. (1807 in favor, 902 against)
Here is the wording which appeared on the ballot:
Shall the proposed ordinance requiring the Mayor and City Council to hold bi-annual Public hearings to analyze the impact of political contributions on local elections and Directing the Mayor to notify the Ohio General Assembly and U.S. Congress that the Electors of the city of Defiance passed this ordinance calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring that only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with constitutional rights and that money is not the equivalent of speech be adopted?
The wording of the petition to which the 866 citizens affixed their signature spelled out more details:
Beginning in the year 2013, the Mayor and City Council shall designate one day in the month of February following the November federal elections, “Democracy Day.” On this day, the Mayor and City Council shall sponsor a Public Hearing in a public space within the City. The City shall publicize the Public Hearing on its website and through area media at least one (1) month in advance of the Hearing. The Public Hearing will examine the impact of political contributions of corporations, unions, PACS and Super-PACS on the City. The mayor and at least one (1) City Councilperson shall submit Testimony at the public hearing. In addition, all citizens of Defiance will be permitted to submit oral testimony for a period of at least five (5) minutes per citizen.
Within one (1) week following the Public Hearing, the Mayor shall send a letter to the Leaders of the Ohio House and Senate and Defiance’s U.S. congressional Representative, and both Ohio U.S. Senators stating that the citizens of Defiance in November 2012 voted in support of a Citizens’ initiative calling for a constitutional amendment declaring:
A) Only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with constitutional rights.
B) Money is not equivalent to speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.
the bi-annual Public Hearings will cease if and when a constitutional amendment reflecting the principles set forth in Section 02 is ratified by 3/4 of state legislatures.
This initiative shall take effect and be included in the appropriate part of the City Ordinances at the earliest date permitted by law.
Because the ordinance was passed at the 2013 election, which was not federal, we were delayed in carrying out the ordinance’s mandate. The first Democracy Day and the Mayor’s letter to our state and federal legislators were delayed until 2015 following the 2014 federal election.