Rudderless

by The Madison County Record |
Oct. 26, 2008, 3:00am

On election day, Illinois voters will discover the difference between wrongheaded political handiwork and responsible leadership.

The train wreck formerly known as our impending "con-con" ballot referendum will provide the example.

We told you last week how a group of state legislators, for all practical purposes, has sabotaged our once-every-20-years, constitutionally-mandated ballot question asking whether we should or shouldn't have another constitutional convention.

Their task was to write a simple ballot question. They did so, but also prefaced it with blatantly wrong wording and incorrect instructions, followed by some subtle lobbying language suggesting voters take the status quo, Springfield insiders' favored position on the issue.

The result: a ballot that screams, "vote no" and promises to generate more court challenges, along with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees which Illinois taxpayers may have to shoulder, a bitter thought in these tough economic times.

This week, remedies intended to counter their recklessness, to prevent this once-every-twenty-years referendum from arriving stillborn, fell flat. It shouldn't have happened.

After earlier court proceedings, a Chicago judge ordered "corrective notice" flyers be handed out at every polling place in Illinois to counter the ballot's misinformation and offering accurate instructions to voters. But as our Ann Knef reported this week, during early voting, that hasn't been happening.

"We're not under the jurisdiction of a Cook County judge," explained St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney, when asked why his polling place staff wasn't following the order.

Delaney was mistaken. But it's hard to fault him. The order of a circuit judge 400 miles away isn't as attention-getting as an order of our state's highest court could have been.

Unfortunately that court deferred on handing the issue and, in our opinion, did a disservice to its duty to our state constitution.

But our high court justices weren't the only ones. Governor Rod Blagojevich and Attorney General Lisa Madigan knew about the tainted ballots. But both have largely ignored the issue, treating it like some routine dust up, instead of the unprecedented spoiling of a constitutionally-required ballot question, which it is.

This isn't a matter of partisanship. We oppose another constitutional convention. And we support fair elections. Whatever our politics, the authority of our state constitution isn't a sometime thing.

Now it appears we're poised for an expensive do-over. We hear rumblings that a federal lawsuit is in the works to be filed after the election to void the referendum and probably require another one two years from now. More taxpayer money for legal fees and printing.

That's the best, worst case solution. It's a shame. It didn't have to be. The makers and guardians of the law were out to lunch.

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