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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.

Written by Shannon Antinori

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.

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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."

Gerard Schilling November 01, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Vote no as this amendment is brought to you by the same crooks, thugs and thieves that created the problems for the last 30 years. (Current politicians and their corrupt union buddies) The amendment that should be passed is an immediate claw back of any state pension over 60k a year starting with the politicians and union leaders followed by the school system, administrative types like city managers, park district, water authorities and the 5,000 plus other special appointed boards, fire, police and ambulance paramedics and only as a last resort the average government employee making less than 60k a year.
H.I. McDunnough November 01, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Amen brother!
MW Drew November 01, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Gerard - based on your comments, I think you probably would want to vote YES to this amendment. As it is written now, only a "majority" vote (51%) is needed to INCREASE pension benefits. By voting YES, the law will be changed to require a 60% vote to increase benefits..... so it makes it harder for politicians to vote for their cronies to have higher pension benfits. Please spread the word to vote YES!!!
Gerard Schilling November 01, 2012 at 09:06 PM
It also requires 60% for claw backs. These guys want to make it impossible to get reductions to their fat pensons!
Pro Life Crusader + November 02, 2012 at 01:27 AM
MW Drew the amendment is going to fail!! Say bye bye to it!
bluebird November 06, 2012 at 01:35 PM
This was a great topic for Patch to cover. Speaking as someone who will be getting an IL pension eventually---though I make nowhere near the 60K the above bloggers are bitching about--I want the fund solvent and available. That's it. That's all.

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