Those of us who like to pull a voting hit and run on Election Day are going to grind to a halt when we walk into the polling place in November.
You won’t be able to tell the ballots without a scorecard.
So far, five — count ‘em, five — statewide ballot measures will face Illinois voters on Nov. 4. Attempts at two others have been stifled by legal obstacles.
Not one of the questions that made it to the fall ballot has a clear-cut answer nor is any of them easy to decipher. This is a ballot shaping up to be unlike any in Illinois history, but if you’re in the court of public opinion that loves democracy in action, get ready for the gavel to drop on a doozy of a lineup:
- The millionaire’s sales tax. Gov. Pat Quinn signed off late last month on a long-debated measure to tax millionaires to raise funds for education. The advisory question asks voters whether the Illinois Constitution should be amended to require that each school district receive additional revenue, based on their number of students, from an additional 3 percent tax on income greater than $1 million. My money’s on the millionaires winning this one, even if they lose at the polls.
- The Right to Vote Amendment, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, seeks to ensure that no person shall be denied the right to register to vote or to cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, language, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation or income.
The punster in me says I’m glad they threw in the part about income since so many people like to vote with their pocketbook. But the more pragmatic side of me understands this as a serious issue.
The ballot question is purportedly attempting to deter a voter identification card law from taking shape in Illinois, which some feel could unnecessarily add to current requirements and dissuade people from voting in future elections.
- Establishing a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, a measure to strengthen the rights of victims during criminal court proceedings. This one also was referred by the Legislature and will require a constitutional amendment. Essentially, the rights that are now specifically granted to crime victims in the state constitution would be broadened to grant victims the right to be free from harassment throughout the criminal trial process and to be notified of such things as arraignments and sentencings.
I can’t see many people objecting to this on its face, and since altering any part of the constitution requires approval of the people, let them have a say. Still, there is a side to me that says existing law regulates such abuse and nothing we do as voters is going to stop it from occurring.
- Advisory question on increasing the state’s hourly minimum wage to $10. Clearly, the Legislature is wanting to take the public’s pulse before increasing the minimum wage from $8.25 an hour. And while I don’t see this measure failing, I also don’t think many people understand the ramifications of taking such across-the-board action, especially on small-business owners.
We would, however, be better off if businessmen adhered to the words of the late Robert Bosch. The industrialist famously said: “I don’t pay good wages because I have a lot of money; I have a lot of money because I pay good wages.”
The Illinois Birth Control in Prescription Drug Coverage Question. The advisory measure asks voters whether prescription birth control should be covered in health insurance plans. No matter how this one comes out, somebody ain’t gonna be happy. Watch for the debate.
Another question that did not make it to the ballot and is stalled in court, deals with mandatory term limits. Supporters of the measure want to see lawmakers’ terms limited to eight years. If the measure does end up on the ballot, it will be the first time Illinois residents have voted on a binding initiative since 1980.
A court decision would be needed by Aug. 22, which is when the Illinois State Board of Elections is set to certify the fall ballot.
All of the above begs the question of why so many measures are appearing on the ballot this fall. Critics claim it’s the work of a Democrat-fueled Legislature trying to drive its political base to the polls by asking questions that largely appeal to lesser-income individuals.
If true, I’d remind legislators that term limits are intended for politicians who ask too many questions for the wrong reason.