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Illinois Primary Voters Likely to be Asked to Sign Statewide Initiative Petition

Illinois holds its 2014 primary on March 18. In midterm years, Illinois has the nation’s second-earliest primary; only Texas has an earlier primary. No other state in 2014 will hold a primary earlier than May 6.

Illinois voters standing in line to vote in the primary are likely to be asked to sign a statewide initiative petition. A proposed constitutional amendment to impose legislative term limits has been circulating since September 2013, and supporters feel they need 450,000 signatures to meet the requirement of 298,400. Therefore, they are petitioning near polling places, because voters standing in line to vote are invariably registered voters, and provide high-quality signatures.

The initiative would amend the Constitution to shrink the size of the State Senate, increase the size of the House of Representatives, change the vote needed in the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto, and impose legislative term limits of eight years. The term limits portion would not be retroactive and only service after 2014 would count toward the limits, so if the measure passes, the composition of the legislature would not change as a result of the measure until 2022.

Illinois did not have a procedure for legally-binding initiatives until 1970, and the State Constitution says the only binding initiative that can be done is one that changes the “structure and procedure” of the legislature. This is so restrictive, only once has any binding initiative appeared on the ballot. In 1980 an initiative abolishing cumulative voting for the State House appeared on the ballot and passed. In 1994 the State Supreme Court removed a term limits initiative from the ballot, on the grounds that that initiative did not change the “structure and procedure” of the legislature. The vote was 4-3; that case was called Chicago Bar Association v Illinois State Board of Elections, 641 NE 2d 525. The new initiative that is circulating now was written to avoid the legal problem for the 1994 measure.

5 Responses

  1. Demo Rep

    Attention IL MORONS —

    The problem is the nonstop minority rule gerrymanders in all regimes in the USA.

    NOT stunt stuff like term limits.
    —-
    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

  2. Andy

    I don’t know what they do in Illinois in regard to gathering petition signatures at polling places, but in some states they misapply electioneering laws and make petition circulators stand so far away from the polling place that they are unable to speak to hardly anybody.

    The reason I said that they misapply electioneering laws is because if you are gathering petition signatures to place something on the ballot for a future election, you are not influencing how people vote in the election where you are gathering signatures at the polls, because whatever it is that you are petitioning for is not even on the ballot yet.

    One should be able to stand close enough to the polls that they can talk to everyone who shows up to vote.

    • Jim Riley

      Presumably the intent is to prevent chaos at the polls, and preventing harassment that would discourage people from voting.

      You are also suggesting content-based regulation of speech. And it may be difficult to separate different political messages. Imagine that you were soliciting for the proposed measure.

      Andy: Would you like to sign this term limits initiative petition?
      Anti-Andy: We already have term limits. It’s called an election. If you don’t like that Senator Bugtussle has been there forever, then vote for Joe Smith.

      Was Anti-Andy simply expressing opposition to your petition – and surely he should have an equal right to discourage signing, as you do to encourage signing? Or was he electioneering on behalf of Joe Smith?

      This petition would also strengthen the position of Pat Quinn who was running for renomination. What if Quinn were paying you? What if his campaign had donated $100,000 to the group that was paying you?

  3. Jim Riley

    The Illinois Supreme Court interpreted the “structure and procedure” provision to mean that an initiative must change both.

    So the current initiative not only adds term limits; it changes the size of the house and senate; eliminates the stagger of senatorial terms; and changes the vote required to override a gubernatorial veto from 3/5 to 2/3.

    The term limits are 8 years total in either house. Illinois also has the provision where a governor can make a conditional veto, where he can propose additions to legislation, which can be approved by a simple majority.

    In the past Governor Quinn has proposed totally unrelated additions to bills. Increasing the veto override increases the chance that the legislature will grumbingly go along rather than lose an initial bill.

    Coupled with the short term limits, this will tend to increase the power of the governor at the expense of the legislature.

  4. ken b in st l

    On a number of occasions I was allowed to petition very close to the door of an election site, while those deemed to be electioneering were kept far away. Election officials always initially (and angrily) came out to order me away but when I showed them my petition to get a party or issue on a future ballot (that had nothing to do with the current voting) and I noted that I only approached people exiting (AFTER they voted) then surprisingly the officials bought it and I was allowed to continue!
    Periodically the officials came to the door to look at me, I presume to make sure I only got folks who were leaving the polls.
    But I see Jim Riley’s point. Having numerous petitioners near the door might be ripe for abuse.

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