Illinois Constitutional Convention (2008)
On November 4th, 2008, the voters of Illinois decided, as they do every twenty years, on whether or not they wanted to hold a constitutional convention to propose amendments to the Illinois Constitution.
When constitutional conventions are held, the delegates to that convention may propose amendments to the constitution to the voters of the state; the state's voters then vote on each of those proposed amendments; if any are approved by a statewide vote, they become part of the state's constitution.
Election Results via: Illinois State Board of Elections
The question appeared on a separate ballot. It required a 3/5th (60%) vote for passage. If voters had decided in favor of the state holding a constitutional convention, Article 14 of the Illinois Constitution lays out the subsequent process by which the convention would take place. Specifically, the General Assembly shall provide for the election of delegates (2 for each Senate District, for a total of 118), the location, and the funding of the convention. Once convened, the convention can amend, or completely rewrite the Constitution of the State of Illinois. The document then will go back to state voters for approval by simple majority between two to six months after the convention adjourns. All changes must be published for public review, with explanations, no later than one month before the public vote.
Supporters of a "yes" vote
Notable individuals or groups who supported a "yes" vote on the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention included:
- Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn
- Cook County Assessor James Houlihan will urge voters to support a convention, and may possibly supply funding for the pro-con-con coalition. Mr. Houlihan said he’ll urge a “yes” vote on con-con because of the failure of lawmakers to deal with what he considers to be a flawed taxation and school-funding system.
- Con-Con Yes, a group headed by state Rep. Jack Franks, hired Democrat political consultant Michael Noonan to assist in their effort.
- Illinois Citizens' Coalition, an organization founded in 2008 by Bruno Behrend and John Bamabenek Yes for Illinois website
- Ned Mitchell, mayor of Sesser
- Rich Miller, political journalist
- Scott Reeder, political journalist
- Chicago Tribune
- Judy Baar Topinka, former state treasurer
- Mike Boland, state representative
- Jack Franks, state representative
- Sam Cahnman, Alderman, City of Springfield
- Springfield State Journal Register
Arguments in favor
Notable arguments in support of the measure included:
- The cost of a no-frills convention (around $23 million) would be amply repaid by the savings to the taxpayer of constitutional amendments that get the state out of the lobbyist-run budget crisis it is in.
Impact of Blagojevich's unpopularity
Political insiders believe the pro side also received a boost from the declining popularity of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The current constitution allows only for impeachment, not recall of state officials, but a new one could change that. 
Rallies in favor
Supporters of the constitutional convention held a rally in Chicago on Oct 12th, featuring speakers Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and former state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka. The rally was organized by United Power for Action & Justice.
Supporters file successful lawsuit
The Chicago Bar Association, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and a group of voters including radio talk-show host Bruno Behrend sued the state elections board over the way the ballot question will be described on the ballot; a lawsuit they won on October 2.
They particularly objected to a paragraph that included the results of a failed 1988 constitutional convention vote and a separate sentence declaring that not voting on the question is the equivalent of a "no" vote.
Cook County Circuit Judge Nathaniel Howse Jr. in his ruling said, "I believe the language is not accurate [and] interferes with the rights of voters." He ordered lawyers to develop a new version of the ballot summary by October 3 which they may be ordered to print on separate paper that carries an official government seal for distribution at polling places on election day, since the state's official ballots had already been printed by the time of his decision.
The case was in court again on Friday, Oct 4th, with the judge ruling that every Illinois voter who votes Nov. 4 must be notified of the misleading language. State election officials must print notices directing voters to disregard the false information. The notices will be mailed with military and absentee ballots and handed out at polling places beginning Wednesday, Oct 8th.
An October 13, 2008 Chicago Tribune editorial asked the IL Supreme Court Justices to take up the ballot wording and processing case on an expedited basis. The Tribune offered up the Chicago Bar Association's suggestion to hand voters a sheet with the new language and a place to vote on the call for a constitutional convention. Voters then would proceed to the regular, longer ballots to make their choices in all the candidate races and other ballot issues.
Opponents of a constitutional convention
A group called the Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution (APIC) is the main opponent of a "yes" vote. Members of the coalition include most of the state's influential lobbying organizations: American Insurance Association, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, Chicago Urban League, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Citizen Action/Illinois, Illinois Association of Convenience Stores, Illinois Association of School Administrators, Illinois Business RoundTable, Illinois Civil Justice League, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Manufacturers Association, Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois Retired Teachers Association, Illinois State AFL-CIO, Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, League of Women Voters of Illinois, Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses/Illinois, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Police Benevolent and Protective Association of Illinois, SEIU Illinois, State University Annuitants Association, Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois, Tooling and Manufacturing Association, Union League Club of Chicago)
Other opponents included:
- Illinois Rifle Association view statement
- House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) believes the current constitution is basically sound and the state would be better off not spending millions of dollars electing delegates, meeting in convention and then voting again.
- Jim Edgar, former governor view statement
- Dawn Clark Netsch
- Joe Cook, mayor of Channahon
- Nanci Vanderweel, Elk Grove Township supervisor
- Chuck Sweeny, political journalist
- Chicago Sun-Times
- Carol Marion, political reporter, Chicago Sun-Times
- Jil Tracy, State Representative
- Daily Herald
- Randall C. Stufflebeam, Chairman, Constitution Party of Illinois
Arguments against convention
Notable arguments made in opposition to the measure included:
- Opponents say the same politicians in charge of dysfunctional Springfield prior to the convention would set the ground rules that the convention delegates would follow. They argue the key to changing government is changing its leaders during elections. Because delegate elections would likely be expensive, many of the delegates likely would not be average people, but people supported by powerful legislators and special interest groups.
- The APIC said the constitutional convention might cost taxpayers up to $80 million, extrapolated from the costs of the convention for the 1970 constitution.
- See also Polls, 2008 ballot measures.
|Month of Poll||Polling company||In Favor||Opposed||Undecided|
|September 25-26 2008||Pulse Opinion Research||37%||31%||33%|
|October 15-16, 2008- CD10 ONLY||Bennett, Petts & Normington||21%||45%||35%|
The September 2008 poll was commissioned by ConConYes and sampled 1,000 likely voters. Originally, ConConYes had sent out higher support numbers, apparently based on some "push poll" questions. Rich Miller published the non-persuaded poll numbers in TheCapitolFaxBlog.com on October 10, 2008.
In October 2008, Progress Illinois hired a firm to poll IL-10 on the race for congress, president, a few issues, and also for the constitutional convention. They also asked if the respondent was aware that the con-con question was on the ballot this year- the results were 64% aware, 36% unaware.
Video of debate over the question
YouTube Video of Debate: Sangamo Club, Springfield March 5, 2008- 7 parts Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn vs. Dawn Clark Netsch, fmr state comptroller (taped by IL Channel)
Bruno Behrend Debates Dan Proft - April 19, 2008
Bruno Behrend on Chicago's CANTV - March 7, 2008
1988 convention question
1988 was the last time the voters of Illinois considered the call to have a constitutional convention. The measure failed then by a vote of 900,109 votes for and 2,727,144 against, and 1,069,939 chosing neither option.
- Secretary of State informational pamphlet
- IL Constitutional Convention Resources
- League of Women Voters
- Illinois Citizens Coalition
- Write or Edit Your Own Model Illinois Constitution
- Alliance to Protect the Constitution
- Illinois Issues Power Point Presentation
- Illinois Issues, "Con-Con revisited", Nov 2007
- Daily Chronicle, "Judge: Illinois ballot language 'misleading'", October 2, 2008
- Belleville News Daily, "A look at disputed language on Illinois ballot", Oct. 3, 2008
- Steve Merican's podcast interview with Illinois Constitutional scholar Prof. Ann Lousin
- Daily Herald, "Legal fight brewing over state constitutional convention question", Sept. 30, 2008
- Fox News, "Illinois Judge Rules Ballot Language is Inaccurate", Oct. 2, 2008
- The Southern Illinoisian, "Voters could bring on constitutional convention", March 9, 2008
- Springfield State Journal Register, "Pamphlet to go out on constitutional convention", September 15, 2008
- Chicago Sun-Times, "Debaters argue merits of convention", Sept. 21, 2008
- Chicago Tribune, "New words for con-con vote", Oct. 5, 2008
- State Journal Register, "Voters to settle 270-plus issues", October 6, 2008
- Chicago Sun-Times, "Rewriting of referendum a victory for Illinois voters", October 5, 2008
- Madison County Record, "Op-Ed: Notwithstanding ballot mess, say 'yes' to Con-Con!", October 5, 2008
- The Southern, "Kurt Erickson: Heavy hitters swinging against constitutional convention", October 4, 2008
- State Journal Register, "Our Opinion: Sensible con-con ruling comes up short", October 7, 2008
- Chicago Sun Times, "Rich Miller: Blago is perfect reason for constitutional convention", October 7, 2008
- Chicago Sun Times, "Rich Miller: Reform efforts should start with nonpartisan redistricting", September 30, 2008
- Illinois Issues, "Constitutional Convention Q&A", October 7, 2008
- Chicago Sun Times, "Does Illinois need a new constitution?", October 8, 2008
- Chicago Sun Times, "How does a con-con work?", October 6, 2008
- Wednesday Journal, "Pros, cons of Illinois 'Con Con' debated", October 7, 2008
- Lake County News Sun (Sun-Times News Group), "Illinois voters have chance to change constitution", October 12, 2008
- Southtown Star (Sun Times News Group), "Rich Miller: Lies are latest tactic in war against constitutional convention", October 14, 2008
- Southtown Star (Sun Times News Group), "Illinois Advocates, opponents debate constitutional convention", October 15, 2008
- Springfield State Journal Register, "Lawyer says state ballot is ‘a joke’", October 15, 2008
- ↑ Illinois Constitution, Article 14
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Crain's Chicago Business, "Con-con gets big new backing", Sept. 30, 2008
- ↑ Benton Evening News, "Op-Ed: We need a constitutional convention", August 6, 2008
- ↑ Southtown Star, "Illinois' elected dictatorship of three men", September 23, 2008
- ↑ Quad Cities Online, "Springfield offers plenty of reasons to scrap constitution"
- ↑ Chicago Tribune, "Editorial: Vote yes on con-con", October 5, 2008
- ↑ State Journal Register, "Constitutional convention supporters hold rally", Oct 12, 2008
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Chicago Tribune, "Would con-con construct a camel—or a unicameral?", October 13, 2008
- ↑ State Journal Register, "Constitutional convention: Remedy or waste of money?", October 16, 2008
- ↑ State Journal Register, "Our Opinion: Vote ‘yes’ on constitutional convention", October 26, 2008
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 Chicago Sun-Times, "Does Illinois need a new constitution?", Oct. 6, 2006
- ↑ Southtown Star (Sun-Times Media), "Thousands expected to rally for constitutional convention", October 12, 2008
- ↑ Chicago Sun Times, "Judge: Ballot question 'misleading and false'", October 2, 2008
- ↑ Chicago Tribune, "Justices, block this fraud", October 13, 2008
- ↑ Alliance to Protect the IL Constitution website
- ↑ Daily Herald, "A state CON CON? A definite NO NO", October 6, 2008
- ↑ Rockford Register Star, "Keep politicians away from our constitution", September 17, 2008
- ↑ Chicago Sun Times, "Don't vote for a new constitutional convention", October 7, 2008
- ↑ Chicago Sun Times, "Con Con: I'll Have What She's Having!", October 11, 2008
- ↑ KHQA News, "Constitutional Convention on Illinois ballot", October 15, 2008
- ↑ Daily Herald, "Vote 'no' on constitutional convention", October 20, 2008
- ↑ Northwest Herald, "Is it time for a Constitutional convention in Illinois?", August 3, 2008
- ↑ Evanston Review, "Opponents: State not broken", September 19, 2008
- ↑ Progress Illinois, "Progress Illinois Poll In IL-10: Kirk 47%, Seals 41%", October 19, 2008
- ↑ 1988 proposed constitutional amendments, Illinois