The ballots are in, but legal concerns are ongoing. Sixty-eight percent of Illinois voters on Tuesday rejected the call for another constitutional convention. The results don't satisfy a group of supporters who still want clarification about the process of putting that question before voters, as constitutionally mandated every 20 years. At this rate, the 2008 question could drag out until 2010.
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn says he is considering whether to file a new complaint over the handling of the referendum or to continue seeking the Illinois Supreme Court’s clarification on the issue. Quinn says voters in numerous counties did not receive their blue pieces of paper, as mandated by a judge last month.
From the beginning, Quinn and others who supported the call for a convention expressed concerns that the language was misleading, which was affirmed by two court decisions. He says if opponents can defeat this referendum, then opponents of future referenda could do the same.
“My major concern above all else is that this not become a precedent and a habit of the legislature when they hear about something they don’t like on the referendum ballot, that they put together an ‘explanation’ — in quote marks — to help the voters along, when, in fact, it’s designed to steer the voters against it,” Quinn says. “If that becomes a pattern of behavior in Illinois, then it really will be a blot on our democracy.”
The Chicago Bar Association, meanwhile, does not plan to file another lawsuit over the results of the referendum, says Steve Pflaum. He's the association’s general counsel and a partner with McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago. However, the association does plan to ask the Illinois Supreme Court to review a lower court’s opinion to determine whether the ballot was unconstitutional and whether the remedy of a so-called corrective notice was inadequate.
The association, like Quinn, wants to clarify the process. “Our primary objective at this point would be to try to establish the legal principals that govern these Con-Con referenda so that when we do it again 20 years from now that we won’t have this kind of confusion and these kinds of problems,” he says. He adds a big however. “If the court agrees with us that the separate ballot requirement that is expressly contained in the Illinois Constitution was violated here, then it’s quite possible that the court would conclude that it would be necessary to redo this Con-Con referendum.”
Pflaum estimated that the association wouldn’t file the appeal with the Supreme Court for another month. And if the high court ruled that the referendum had to be redone, he says it most likely wouldn’t happen until the 2010 General Election.
The association also is asking voters who did not receive their blue notices with their ballots to fill out affidavit forms to help plaintiffs gather evidence.
The Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution, which formed a well-funded campaign to defeat the referendum, issued this statement from its executive director, Nancy Kaszak, last night: “This campaign was a unique opportunity for organizations and individuals from across the political spectrum to come together and provide real leadership. Voters saw through the rhetoric and rejected opening up our state's foundational document to wholesale re-write. We look forward to working with leaders of every political persuasion to solve the challenges facing Illinois.”