Saturday, September 6, 2014

Coming to an Election Near You: Corporate Suffrage

If there's any reason to ever pay attention to the goings-on in other countries this is a prime example.  There's a fight going on in New South Wales to give businesses in Sydney up to 2 votes in the local elections.  The whole thing is clearly aimed at the current Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore.  Moore was already successfully targeted by the current conservative state government a few years ago.  She was a state MP from 1988-2012.  In 2004 she became Lord Mayor of Sydney.  The conservative government successfully pushed through a bill that said a person couldn't be a member of the state parliament and a member of a local council. Now we have round 2.

What should worry those here is that now with all the publicity that this will likely make, we can probably expect some conservative, Tea Party controlled state to try and pass a bill that gives suffrage to corporations and businesses in this country.  We might not even need that if another Hobby Lobby case makes its way to the Supreme Court.

First Slate magazine which gives a little background:
The controversy, to be clear, isn’t over whether businesses should still get the vote. It’s just about whether they should be forced to vote.

As Marian Sawer and Peter Brent recounted in a 2011 paper, Australia’s odd tradition of corporate enfranchisement is a holdover from its 19th-century colonial days. Early in the country’s history, men could vote wherever they owned property or a business, or paid enough rent. Everyone else was barred from the ballot box. In the 1850s, the country moved to universal male suffrage, and over the next half-century or so, property and business owners lost the ability to vote in multiple jurisdictions during federal elections. But in local politics, the right of out-of-town business owners and landlords to cast a ballot lingered on.
To get an Aussie view, Antony Green of the ABC does a good job:
It is hard not to see malice towards Independent Lord Mayor Clover Moore in the proposed bill. Put forward by Robert Borsak of the Shooters and Fishers Party, it expands the business roll by making business enrolment compulsory, making voting by businesses compulsory, and by giving businesses as defined in the bill two votes.

As Mr Borsak justifies multiple votes in his speech-
Others will ask: Why should business get two votes and why should it be compulsory? Eligible voters are required to vote—pure and simple; that is the law. The way to ensure accountability for any government is through the protection that the ballot box brings. This is called democracy. Everyone pays rates. A household pays only one set of rates, which is substantially less than a business pays. Yet most households have two or more eligible voters living there; they get to have a say for the payment of only one set of rates. If businesses are forced to pay rates those same businesses should have a say as to how those rates are used. Uninformed comment by those opposing this bill would have one believe that overseas investors will be able to vote in the City of Sydney council elections. They will not be able to vote. Only those entitled to vote at a State or Federal election will have that privilege. This bill is being introduced to try to give an honest reflection of what a majority of eligible voters want to see happen in the city of Sydney.
The paragraph is a wonderful bit of sophistry because the bill redefines what an eligible voter is, gives some of the newly eligible voters multiple votes, and then justifies the result because it delivers the will of the majority of eligible voters.

The logic here is trying to tap into the argument of the American revolution about no taxation without representation. Yet it is distorting this argument into one that says those who pay more taxes should get more votes.
When you think about the rulings from the Supreme Court over the years, you can easily see this as being one of the next steps.  We had the court recognize corporate personhood.  With Hobby Lobby, corporations can now practice a religion.