Youngstown residents submit signatures for their Community Rights Fair Elections Initiative
Youngstown, OH: Today, a long-standing community rights group in Youngstown, OH, submitted over 1,900 signatures to qualify their Youngstown Fair Election Bill of Rights initiative for the November ballot. The measure is the first of its kind in the state, limiting campaign contributions to registered voters within the City, and capping those contributions at $100.
The Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee drafted the initiative with the support of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). CELDF has been assisting Youngstown residents to advance their democratic and environmental rights since 2013, when residents launched their community rights work to protect themselves from fracking activities. Fracking threatens their drinking water and has caused earthquakes in the area.
“We have fought to keep fracking projects out of our City for several years, with six ballot measures that asserted our right to clean water and to local community self-government,” said Lynn Anderson, a lead organizer with the Youngstown Committee. “We have been vastly outspent by industry and their corporate allies. It is clear to us that we are trying to advance rights via the ballot in an election system set up to favor corporations. This time, we’re addressing the election system too.”
The initiative states that the people of Youngstown recognize that “corporations use their disproportionate wealth to frame important issues and influence elections.” Therefore, the measure removes corporations from the election process. It also places candidate selection in the hands of voters rather than powerful political parties. It reinforces the separation of powers between the judiciary and other branches of government by removing the initiative’s content as grounds for blocking it from the ballot. Thus, if technical requirements are met, initiatives must be placed before voters.
Tish O’Dell is the Ohio Community Organizer for CELDF. She stated, “The right to community self-government is an inalienable right – one that the American Revolutionaries fought and died to uphold. The right to vote is supposed to reflect our right to self-government. In Youngstown, that right is rendered meaningless when the people in the community are outspent in their issue campaigns 50:1 by corporate entities. Residents are ready to level the playing field and bring inalienable rights back to the real people who live here.”
The City has 10 days to hold the petitions and then must advance them to the Mahoning County Board of Elections to certify the signatures. The full text of the Youngstown Fair Election Bill of Rights can be read at the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee’s website: http://www.protectyoungstown.org/
Ohio Communities Part of Growing Movement Ohio residents are advancing Community Rights, including free and fair elections, as part of the broader Community Rights Movement building across the United States. Other localities are advancing similar measures to establish and protect their rights to a healthy climate, clean air and water, and the right to local community self-government.
Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance these fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish community rights and the rights of nature in law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.
Additional InformationFor additional information regarding petitioning communities, contact CELDF at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about the Ohio Community Rights Network, visit ohiocrn.org. To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit www.celdf.org.
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense FundThe Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.