Illinois Constitution

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Illinois Constitution
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The Illinois Constitution is the basic governing document of the state of Illinois. There have been four Illinois Constitutions. The current version was adopted in a special election on December 15, 1970.[1]


The 1970 Constitution of Illinois has a preamble, 14 articles and a schedule.[1]

Article XIV requires that Illinois voters be asked at least every 20 years if they desire a constitutional convention. The last time that measure was put to a vote was in 2008. The ballot measure failed with 67 percent voting against the measure.[2]


See also: Preambles to state constitutions

The preamble to the Illinois Constitution states:

We, the People of the State of Illinois; grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He has permitted us to enjoy and seeking His blessing upon our endeavors — in order to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the people; maintain a representative and orderly government; eliminate poverty and inequality; assure legal, social and economic justice; provide opportunity for the fullest development of the individual; insure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; and secure the blessings of freedom and liberty to ourselves and our posterity - do ordain and establish this Constitution for the State of Illinois.[1]

Article I

Article I of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Bill of Rights" and contains similar provisions as the United States Bill of Rights, such as freedom of religion, speech and assembly and the right of due process double jeopardy.[1]

Article II

Article II of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Powers of the State" and separates the state government into the executive, legislative and judicial branches.[1]

Article III

Article III of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Suffrage and Elections" and describes voting qualifications and other election rules.[1]

Article IV

Article IV of the Illinois Constitution is titled "The Legislature" and provides rules for the Illinois General Assembly.[1]

Article V

Article V of the Illinois Constitution is titled "the Executive" and outlines the rules governing the six state-elected offices, including: the Illinois Governor, the Illinois Lieutenant Governor, the Illinois Attorney General, the Illinois Secretary of State, the Illinois Comptroller and the Illinois Treasurer.[1]

Article VI

Article VI of the Illinois Constitution is titled "the Judiciary" and vests the power of the judiciary branch into three courts: the Supreme Court of Illinois, the Illinois Appellate Court, and the circuit or trial courts of Illinois.[1]

Article VII

Article VII of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Local Government" and outlines the governing structure and power of county, township and city governments.[1]

Article VIII

Article VIII of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Finance" and provides for financial matters of state.[1]

Article IX

Article IX of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Revenue" and establishes the state's revenue power.[1]

Article X

Article X of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Education" and establishes the state's public school system.[1]

Article XI

Article XI of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Environment" and outlines the state's duty to provide and maintain a healthful environment and grants each person the "right to a healthful environment."[1]

Article XII

Article XII of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Militia." It establishes rules for the state militia and authorizes the Governor of Illinois as the commander-in-chief of the militia.[1]

Article XIII

Article XIII of the Illinois Constitution is titled "General Provisions" and establishes rules governing the running for public office, pension and retirement rights and public transportation.[1]

Article XIV

Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution is titled "Constitutional Revision" and sets up procedures to amend the constitution.[1]


The Transition Schedule of the Illinois Constitution consists of a preamble and ten sections, though some have been removed. It is also the conclusive section of the Illinois Constitution.[1]

Amending the constitution

Main article: Amending state constitutions

Article XIV lays out four different routes that can be taken in order to change the constitution over time.

  • The legislature can only propose to amend up to three articles of the constitution in any one election.
  • The legislature is not allowed to propose any amendments when a constitutional convention has been called up through the time that an election is held on any proposed amendments or revisions that arise from that convention.
  • It can only apply to "structural and procedural subjects" contained in Article IV of the Illinois Constitution.
  • Signatures equal to eight percent of the total vote cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election must be collected.

Whether the question at hand is about holding a constitutional convention, ratifying an amendment proposed by the Illinois General Assembly, or adopting an initiated constitutional amendment, these ballot questions are only considered successful if voters say "yes" by a supermajority vote of 60 percent of those voting on the question or a majority of those who cast a ballot for any office in that election.


The first Illinois Constitution was adopted in 1818 when Illinois was admitted to the Union. Constitutional revisions were subsequently ratified in 1848, 1870 and 1970.[3]

The Illinois Constitution of 1818 was modeled after the United States Constitution and written in Kaskasia, Illinois, the state's first capital. It established the state's bicameral legislative system and a provided for a governor and lieutenant governor to be elected every four years. Other members of the executive branch and members of the judiciary branch were appointed by the governor.[4] At the time of the 1818 constitution's framing, slavery was legal in the Illinois territory, though the United States Ordinance of 1787 that said no new states may be established as slave states. The framers worked around this by outlawing slavery except for slave labor that already existed (especially in the salt mines) until 1825.[5]

In 1862, a constitutional convention was held, but the changes known as the "Copperhead constitution" were not ratified by the voters.[6] A constitutional convention was held in 1920, but in 1922 the changes were rejected by voters.[7] The last time Illinois residents were asked if they desired to hold a constitutional convention was in 2008. The ballot measure failed with 67 percent voting against the measure.[2]

See also

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