The United States has seen the right to vote be extended from strictly land-owning white males to minorities of all kinds and all women over time — albeit not without a fight. Now it seems if Montana Representative Steve Lavin gets his way, corporations will also have the right to vote.
This shouldn’t fully come as a surprise; GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney did say a while ago that "corporations are people." However, the fact that a lawmaker has actually introduced a bill that would give corporations the right to vote is a little unsettling.
The bill, which luckily has been tabled for now, holds:
"Provision for vote by corporate property owner. (1) Subject to subsection (2), if a firm, partnership, company, or corporation owns real property within the municipality, the president, vice president, secretary, or other designee of the entity is eligible to vote in a municipal election as provided in [section 1].
(2) The individual who is designated to vote by the entity is subject to the provisions of [section 1] and shall also provide to the election administrator documentation of the entity’s registration with the secretary of state under 35-1-217 and proof of the individual’s designation to vote on behalf of the entity."
Section 3 continues to define real property as: "means lands, structures, buildings, and interests in land, including lands under water and riparian rights, and all things and rights usually included within the term "real property," including not only fee simple absolute but also all lesser interests, such as easements, rights-of-way, uses, leases, licenses, and all other incorporeal hereditaments and every estate, interest, or right, legal or equitable, pertaining to real property."
In other words, being a non-resident property owner of just about anything will grant you the right to vote in Kalispell, Montana’s city council election via a mail ballot. The implication? This means that owners of corporations such as Walmart now may legally have a say in the happenings of a small town in Montana.
There are certain restrictions in the bill on these corporate rights. For example, the corporation or non-resident property owner would not be allowed to vote in school elections. As of now, the bill would only pertain to municipal elections; but if something such as this actually passes, such measures could potentially transpire to state and federal levels, a scary thought in itself.
Although the Supreme Court and America as a whole has grappled with the concept of giving personhood to corporations, such as in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, giving them an actual vote may be taking it a step too far.
Regardless of what Mr. Romney claims, corporations are not people. They are an "artificial entity." And last I heard, the Constitution did not grant voting rights to artificial entities, and it should stay that way.