Voters can expect to receive a controversial blue piece of paper with their ballots next month. They also can expect to see special notices posted in the voting booths, absentee ballots, newspapers and on Web sites.
That is, unless things change -- again -- in the legal debate about a mandatory referendum asking voters whether Illinois should convene another constitutional convention to open the state charter.
As of today's court order, that blue notice will explain that the referendum contains what a Cook County judge deemed “inaccurate” and “misleading” information that a person who skips the question on the ballot counts as a “no” vote.
The Chicago Bar Association, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and other proponents of the commonly called Con-Con filed suit in Cook County also argued that the explanation of the November 4 referendum -- written by a committee of legislators and certified by state election officials and the secretary of state -- was biased against a convention because it included the fact that the 1988 referendum failed by a 3-1 margin.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Nathaniel Howse Jr. ruled in their favor and, after multiple, day-long meetings with both sides, ordered local authorities to hand out and post notices to tell voters to disregard the inaccurate sentence.
David Orr, Cook County clerk, said it could have been worse, but the “mistake” is making it very difficult for everyone else in the state as elections near.
“That's life when it comes to elections, but it couldn't have come at a worse time for us in terms of preparations,” Orr said. “But at this point, I think it's done.”
Maybe not, Con-Con supporters said.
Bruno Behrend, cofounder of the Illinois Citizens Coalition that supports the call for a convention and who is involved in the case, said he's not satisfied.
“We just ask people to try and do the intellectual exercise: Read this language on the ballot, understand that it's wrong, and try to craft an order that ameliorates it. No matter what your view on the outcome of the election, you can't.”
He says the proponents could try one more time to rectify the situation through an appeal, asking the judge to require election authorities to print an entirely separate ballot for the Con-Con referendum. He says they acknowledge the cost, although undetermined.
“The only justification we can really say is, 'What is the cost of an unfair election?'” Bruno said.
We'll learn more Tuesday. In the meantime, check out these resources from Illinois Issues magazine about a constitutional convention:
- Pro vs. Con of a Con-Con. Listen here.
- Presentation of Con-Con basics
- Con-Con revisited by Patrick Guinane
- Con-Con separation of powers debate by Aaron Chambers (In Illinois Issues magazine print only, February 2008, page 27).
And one comprehensive resource is from the state's Legislative Research Unit.