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Franklin County voters lean left of state

With 77 percent voter turnout in Tuesday’s election, Franklin County again swung more progressive than the state as a whole, including passage by nearly 84 percent of a referendum calling for a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of money in political campaigns.

County voters also supported Democratic President Barack Obama by nearly 72 percent — compared to 61 percent statewide — and backed Sen. Elizabeth Warren by a better than 2-1 margin, compared to her 54 percent win statewide.

Franklin County voters, along with others in western Massachusetts, approved a ballot question to allow adult Massachusetts residents who have been given a prognosis of six months or less to live to obtain drugs that would end their lives. The measure was backed by more than 62 percent of voters around the county, compared to its defeat by 51 percent of voters statewide.

“I’m disappointed, but I’m also pleased that it was such a close race,” said Randee Laikind, a volunteer for the statewide campaign that promoted the measure with a $700,000 budget, compared to $2.6 million in spending by opponents. “I saw a strong mandate by voters who would like to see it passed, and I’m convinced that in five years, when we can bring it up again, we’ll be stronger and we can do it. It’s an emotional, personal issue, and it may just take more time.” Franklin County voters also backed, by 72 percent, a ballot question to legalize medical marijuana through a regulated system of drug dispensaries and patient identification cards. The measure passed statewide with 62 percent of the vote.

Eighty-six percent of Franklin County voters, about 1 percent higher than the state overall, backed an amendment to allow auto manufacturers that sell cars to provide access to their diagnostic and repair information system through a universal software system that can be accessed by independent repair shops as well as by dealers.

Political spending Overall, 79 percent of Massachusetts voters approved 27 separate ballot referendums urging legislators to try to curtail corporate and union spending in campaigns.

Here, it was approved by 83.7 percent of voters, with approval ranging from 68 percent in Orange to 88 percent in Deerfield.

Common Cause, which brought the measure before voters, issued a statement Wednesday, saying, “From Massachusetts to Oregon, Colorado to Illinois and Wisconsin, and Ohio to California, citizens throughout the country voted overwhelmingly yesterday for their legislators to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and declare that only human beings not corporations are entitled to constitutional rights and that money is not speech and campaign spending can be regulated.”

Colrain resident Randy Kehler, who has worked for a dozen years for campaign finance reform, said, “I consider the whole way in which we finance election campaigns to be legalized bribery. There’s just no way you can have a true democracy with private money financing public elections, especially when the money comes from people with a vested interest in the outcome of laws and policies.”

Kehler, who last spring helped coordinate a series of town meeting votes that led to a resolution by the Massachusetts Legislature seeing a federal push for an amendment, added, “The passage of these nonbinding referendums is the beginning of what I hope will be a serious national drive to amend the Constitution so that corporations are no longer given the rights of human beings and money in elections is provided publicly, not privately.” John Bonifaz of Amherst, co-founder and executive director of Free Speech for People, the national, nonpartisan organization trying to reverse a decision that it says is undermining democracy, said taken together, these votes “clearly demonstrate that this movement has strong backing from people across the political spectrum, and with 11 states now calling for a constitutional amendment against the “fabricated doctrine of corporate constitutional rights and the influence of big money in politics, there is more than one-quarter of the 38 states needed for ratification of an amendment.

While the results elsewhere in Tuesday’s election especially in the presidential race and in the Connecticut senatorial race may be used by some to argue that big money isn’t everything when it comes to political victory, Bonifaz admitted “I don’t think the verdict then is that money in politics doesn’t matter. It’s pretty clear that big money was decisive and also that corporate money will continue to be used to threaten elected officials on public policy matters.” Bonifaz said he and others will work in the new congressional session to advance bills by Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., whose district now will include much of Franklin and Hampshire counties , to address the influence of big money in politics.

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