Retail marijuana in Denver

An employee weighs portions of retail marijuana at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, where pot is legal.

When Dane County voters go to the polls Tuesday, they’ll see advisory referendums on legalization of marijuana, corporate personhood — and, in one village, whether taxpayers should buy a new leaf vacuum.

Two questions will be on ballots countywide, while the others are up for votes in six communities. Most of the local questions are about a possible amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The amendment proposal is a reaction to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case in which a 5-4 majority ruled that the government may not ban corporate spending in candidate elections, said Nate Timm, co-chairman of the Wisconsin Grassroots Network, which is working with the Move to Amend group on the issue. “We need to even the playing field in our democracy,” he said.

On the village of Belleville ballot, voters will be asked to support an amendment that would “declare that only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and that money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.”

Edgerton, the town of Windsor and the villages of DeForest and Waunakee have similar language on their ballots.

Voters in Madison and Dane County approved such resolutions in 2011 by wide margins.

County Board member Ronn Ferrell said he disagreed with the proposal then and he disagrees with it now. “ What’s the difference between a corporation and any other group of people with similar interests being involved in elections, whether it’s a union, social group or my neighbors and I?” Ferrell said.

County voters will also be asked to advise the state Legislature on whether to legalize marijuana.

County Board member Leland Pan, who helped put the question on the ballot, said legalization could help reduce arrests in a criminal justice system that prosecutes racial minorities disproportionately, and cut back on government intrusions into people’s lives generally. Marijuana also has health benefits, can stimulate the agricultural and other sectors of the economy and increase the government tax base, Pan said.

Sheriff Dave Mahoney said he isn’t taking a position on the ballot issue, but he agrees with law enforcement associations that advise monitoring legalization in California, Colorado and Washington for several years to see how it affects health care costs, student performance and behavior, and problems such as absenteeism in the workplace.

County voters will also see an advisory referendum on putting a nonpartisan entity in charge of redrawing voting districts to reflect population changes every 10 years.

The village of Mazomanie is asking voters whether it should spend $26,000 for a leaf vacuum.

The machine would collect leaves residents rake to the curb and eliminate an “unsightly” drop-off area at Lions Park, said clerk Susan Dietzen.

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Steven Verburg is a reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal covering state politics with a focus on science and the environment as well as military and veterans issues.

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