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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 voter information by your address or birthday.

Many voters may not be aware that they’d be asked to vote on an amendment to the Illinois State Constitution until they see their ballots.

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.

RELATED: PENSION FOES ALLIED AGAINST CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

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."

VoteNoPensionAmendment October 31, 2012 at 01:43 PM
The political hacks are trying to seize complete control. Politicians raided, short-changed or just didn't pay their required portion of public pension contributions. Your employer must contribute to your social security pension, and will be fined or jailed if they do not. With public pensions, the law says the employer must contribute but there is no means to ensure that they do, or punish if they don't. (So they don't) Clearly these problems lead to a shortfall. They politicians have done nothing to scale back their full time pension for part time work. Look into it before you vote. No one except politicians support this amendment. It is a political power grab. The Illinois League of Women Voters opposes the amendment, saying the three-fifths majority vote requirement removes control from a majority and gives it to a minority. The organization also says the requirement does not belong in the state constitution.
VoteNoPensionAmendment October 31, 2012 at 01:47 PM
The Illinois League of Women Voters opposes the amendment, saying the three-fifths majority vote requirement removes control from a majority and gives it to a minority. The organization also says the requirement does not belong in the state constitution.
Edward Andrysiak October 31, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Something is not adding up here. It would seem they want us to believe the broader vote would be required ONLY if there was to be an increase in a pension program whereas, when you read the ammendment...it seems to say that a broader vote would be required to increase or decrease. If that is correct...then a decrease is more likely to come to the floor and a smaller majority vote might be more inclined to pass it. It would seem that a no vote best serves the folks.
VoteNoPensionAmendment October 31, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Edward, the pension amendment is longer than the Constitution. It is longer than the Bill of Rights. The explanation on the ballot is over 200 words long. It sneaks it's way in to much more than pensions. Political hacks who give themselves and their friends bloated pensions due to technicalities must be stopped, but your teachers, policemen and firemen are not the problem. Politicians, not employees broke the State. They just want someone to blame it on. They want someone else to foot the long due bill for their deeds. The won't let any pension reform effect their fat pensions. SIDE NOTE... Police, Firemen and Teacher do NOT get Social Security. Most do not receive any medical insurance, and most must find jobs elsewhere to make up for lost wages and benefits. You only hear about the hacks and the anointed few. Stop them, not us. Knowing what we know... Do we really want to give Madigan and his pals MORE POWER?
Edward Andrysiak November 03, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Look..you got a mailer, the amendment was published in the local paper,and, it is available on line. So, how long it is is a moot point. In fact some of the early paragraphs spell out the direction it is going. A saying my dad passed down to me comes to mind, "if you don't know what to do, do nothing"...and, I believe nothing is the same as a NO vote. After reading all I can...I will vote NO.
Edward Andrysiak November 03, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Ok, I'm confused. if a majority is 51%...assume we have 100 voting, then 51 votes would be required to pass any bill/changes under this law. A 3/5ths vote then would require 60 votes. Wouldn't saying it removes control from the majority to a minority be a stretch? Or do I need more math classes.

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