Referendum results

By Bethany Reinhart

Chicagoans headed to the polls in record numbers to vote on several influential referendums on Nov. 4. Among those referendums were the Illinois Constitutional Convention, an option to adopt an election official recall process and the Bronzeville Affordable Housing Act.

Passed: Bronzeville Affordable Housing Act

The passage of this referendum will ensure that Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee will protect at least 26 percent of city-owned vacant lots in Bronzeville while allocating the land for affordable homeownership opportunities for lower-to moderate-income Bronzeville residents. The income level requirements will be based on Chicago’s Median Income (CMI).

With overwhelming support, the bill passed by an 87-12 percent margin.

Harold Lucas, president and CEO of the Black Metropolis Convention and Tourism Council, said he was “elated” by the passage of the referendum.

“It means that the everyday people, the so-called, ‘middle class,’ the nurses and the people that work in the retail stores—who between them and their wives usually don’t make but $40,000 [to] $50,000 [a year], if they’re lucky—will [be given] the opportunity of affordable homeownership… decent, safe and affordable housing,” Lucas said.

Passed: Recall Amendment

The recall referendum proposed that the Illinois constitution be amended to establish a recall process for the governor and other statewide elected officials.

The referendum passed by a 57-43 percent margin in the city of Chicago and a 63-37 percent margin in Cook County, according to

“The numbers show that the public wants a recall,” said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association. “[This] is a democratic society. If the voters feel someone has done so poorly [that] they should be removed from office, we should not have to wait four years.”

The passage of the referendum came just weeks after Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s job approval rating hit an all-time low of 13 percent, according to a Chicago Tribune poll.

Failed: Constitutional Convention

Illinois voters voted against the Constitutional Convention referendum, 68-32 percent, according to If passed, the referendum would have allowed officials to examine and rewrite the constitution.

The last Constitutional Convention was held in 1969-1970 and the amended constitution was adopted in 1970. The amended constitution required that the question of calling a convention be placed before Illinois voters every 20 years.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was one of the referendum’s most passionate supporters. Quinn argued that holding a Constitutional Convention would help free Illinois from the current dysfunction in state politics.

However, opponents argued a convention would place an unnecessary financial burden on an already strained state budget.

According to Beth Spencer, communication director for the Illinois AFL-CIO, one of the nation’s largest labor unions, holding a constitutional convention would have cost tax-payers anywhere from $80 to $100 million.

“We are very pleased [the bill did not pass],” Spencer said. She said the main reasons the AFL-CIO opposed the bill were because of the huge cost involved and because “we feel that we have an excellent constitution and if things need to be changed, they can be changed in ways besides having a convention and opening the entire document up.”

Spencer said the Illinois AFL-CIO joined a coalition to oppose the referendum along with other business leaders and community groups. She said the coalition aimed

to ensure voters fully understood the ramifications of a constitutional convention.

“We wanted to make sure that everyone understood that we can make changes to the constitution now, without having a Constitutional Convention,” Spencer said.

According to Spencer, the Illinois AFL-CIO was also concerned about labor issues, such as the right to work, that could be brought up at a Constitutional Convention.

“[The coalition] had an all-out effort to educate people about what was involved,” Spencer said. “With all the commercials that were being run and the informational pieces that were being sent out, I think most people understood what was going on.”

Despite the effort to inform voters, many were still unclear about the pros and cons of holding a Constitutional Convention.

“I guess it makes some sense because it could modify many of the outdated aspects of the current constitution,” said Justin Horbath, a sophomore business management major at Columbia. “But I am not really clear on all of the details. I don’t really remember hearing much about [the referendum] and I don’t think most voters were well educated on both sides of the argument.”

Proponents of the referendum are considering filing a lawsuit due to the way the referendum was worded on the ballot, according to the Chicago Tribune. Last month the wording was found to be unconstitutional, but Cook County Circuit Judge Nathaniel House, who ruled the wording unconstitutional, ordered poll workers to hand out fliers to alert voters of the misleading wording