A bill introduced by Montana state Rep. Steve Lavin would give corporations the right to vote in municipal elections:
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.
The idea that “corporations are people, my friend” as Mitt Romney put it, is sadly common among conservative lawmakers. Most significantly of all, the five conservative justices voted in Citizens United v. FEC to permit corporations to spend unlimited money to influence elections. Actually giving corporations the right to vote, however, is quite a step beyond what even this Supreme Court has embraced.
The bill does contain some limits on these new corporate voting rights. Most significantly, corporations would not be entitled to vote in “school elections,” and the bill only applies to municipal elections. So state and federal elections would remain beyond the reach of the new corporate voters.
In fairness to Lavin’s fellow lawmakers, this bill was tabled shortly after it came before a legislative committee, so it is unlikely to become law. A phone call to Lavin was not returned as of this writing.
According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Lavin was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) now defunct Public Safety and Elections Task Force. Last year, pressure from progressive groups forced ALEC to disband this task force, which, among other things, pushed voter suppression laws.