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On the Ballot: Voters to Decide on Illinois Pension Amendment

A long-winded explanation for an even longer constitutional amendment is confusing some early voters, officials say, but the ballot measure boils down to a change in the way pension benefits can be increased.

You might be in for a surprise when you head to the polls on Nov. 6 if you haven’t taken a look at a sample ballot (you can see one here by entering your address and clicking "view sample ballot") or perused the 2012 Voter Information Guide you got in the mail from the Will County Clerk’s office.

So what’s on the ballot?

The proposition seeks voter approval to amend the 1970 Illinois Constitution to require a three-fifths majority vote—rather than just a simple majority—before any governing body can approve a pension benefit increase.

That goes for the Illinois General Assembly, local school districts, police or any unit of local government.

A “yes” vote is a vote in favor of making the change; a “no” vote indicates opposition to the amendment.

Voters tempted to skip the ballot measure entirely should also know that doing so could constitute a “no” vote.

It sounds simple enough, but the long-winded nature of the amendment itself, which is more than 700 words long, could be behind the confusion at the polls. It probably also doesn’t help that the explanation on the ballot is more than 200 words.

This is what voters will see on the ballot:

"NOTICE THE FAILURE TO VOTE THIS BALLOT MAY BE THE EQUIVALENT OF A NEGATIVE VOTE, BECAUSE A CONVENTION SHALL BE CALLED OR THE AMENDMENT SHALL BECOME EFFECTIVE IF APPROVED BY EITHER THREE-FIFTHS OF THOSE VOTING ON THE QUESTION OR A MAJORITY OF THOSE VOTING IN THE ELECTION. (THIS IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS A DIRECTION THAT YOUR VOTE IS REQUIRED TO BE CAST EITHER IN FAVOR OF OR IN OPPOSITION TO THE PROPOSITION HEREIN CONTAINED.) WHETHER YOU VOTE THIS BALLOT OR NOT YOU MUST RETURN IT TO THE ELECTION JUDGE WHEN YOU LEAVE THE VOTING BOOTH.

CONSTITUTION BALLOT PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE 1970 ILLINOIS CONSTITUTION

Explanation of Amendment

Upon approval by the voters, the proposed amendment, which takes effect on January 9, 2013, adds a new section to the General Provisions Article of the Illinois Constitution. The new section would require a three-fifths majority vote of each chamber of the General Assembly, or the governing body of a unit of local government, school district, or pension or retirement system, in order to increase a benefit under any public pension or retirement system. At the general election to be held on November 6, 2012, you will be called upon to decide whether the proposed amendment should become part of the Illinois Constitution. If you believe the Illinois Constitution should be amended to require a three-fifths majority vote in order to increase a benefit under any public pension or retirement system, you should vote YES on the question. If you believe the Illinois Constitution should not be amended to require a three-fifths majority vote in order to increase a benefit under any public pension or retirement system, you should vote NO on the question. Three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election must vote YES in order for the amendment to become effective on January 9, 2013. For the proposed addition of Section 5.1 to Article XIII of the Illinois Constitution."

kent duffy November 02, 2012 at 01:13 PM
With the record increase In early voting, I wish I had educated myself sooner. I was confused, as this article suggests, when I saw this and the ballot

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