PI Original Angela Caputo Wednesday October 1st, 2008, 7:19pm

A Legal Victory For Con-Con Supporters

In recent months, backers of a proposed constitutional convention
have penned plenty of op-eds and hit community forums around the state explaining what they see as the need to open up the Illinois Constitution. Yet
when it came to raising money and showing clout, it ...

In recent months, backers of a proposed constitutional convention have penned plenty of op-eds and hit community forums around the state explaining what they see as the need to open up the Illinois Constitution.  Yet when it came to raising money and showing clout, it didn't seem like they had much juice.

In the past few days, however, things have picked up.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn scored a major victory for Con-Con proponents when a judge ruled in his favor today that the official ballot language is biased and unconstitutional. Quinn had pledged to take the fight to court after Secretary of State Jesse White refused to pull the following sentence from the ballot:

In 1988 the electors rejected the call for a constitutional convention, with 75% voting against calling a convention and 25% voting in favor of calling a convention.

Under the judge's order, voters will reportedly receive a paper notice at their polling place advising them to disregard the proposed question on the ballot. The notice will feature a revised question, which will be determined when the court reconvenes on Friday.

While it's impossible to know how the court ruling will affect the outcome on November 4, the fight over the ballot language seems to have fired up Con-Con proponents and drawn more attention to the issue. Even the Tribune editorial board chimed in today, agreeing that the wording was a not-so-subtle attempt to dissuade voters from supporting a convention.

Meanwhile, Democratic State Rep. Jack Franks recently set up the Con Con Yes political fund, a web site ConConYes.org, and has conducted polling, which he says illustrates support for a convention among Illinois voters. (A request to peek at the poll results was declined today.)

Tim Drea, secretary-treasurer of the Illinois AFL-CIO and a Con-Con opponent, said the latest developments amount to a lot of show. "We're 33 days away from an election and all of a sudden a few politicians sign on. A couple people get their names in the paper and they've got momentum?"

The AFL-CIO is part of the Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution, which is organizing against Con-Con and had $224,871 in the bank as of June 30.

While the economic downturn may prevent the Alliance from hitting their original fundraising targets, Drea says there will be "plenty of money" to carry out an effective campaign. What does that mean? They'll hit lots of union and editorial board meetings and also take out print ads in newspapers and bulletins.

"I think there will be some ads. I don't think you''re going to see us on network television in Chicago. I'd be surprised to see us on TV downstate," he said.

It remains to be seen if Con-Con Yes can match the Alliance's efforts.  Cook County Treasurer James Houlihan, who has a sizable chunk of change in his own campaign fund, is the highest profile supporter to not only join the effort, but also commit to bringing “some money to the table." Only time will tell who else follows.

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