Illinois Voters To Face Rare Ballot Questions | NBC Chicago
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Illinois Voters To Face Rare Ballot Questions

Illinoisans will wade through five ballot questions, ranging from constitutional amendments on voter and victim rights to advisory referendums on birth control

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    NEWSLETTERS

    When Illinois voters cast ballots for the November election, they will have a rare opportunity to weigh in on nearly half a dozen hot-button issues.

    In a practice more common in California and some other states, Illinoisans will wade through five ballot questions — ranging from constitutional amendments on voter and victim rights to advisory referendums on birth control, the minimum wage and a so-called "millionaires' tax." The most Illinois voters have seen before is three, at least since 1970, according to available state records.

    Lawmakers say the non-binding questions are aimed at taking the public's temperature so they know how to proceed in Springfield. But at least some of the measures also have a political purpose, as part of a coordinated campaign by Democrats to boost turnout for the midterm election.

    The list of questions could've been longer, but attempts fell short to include questions about term limits — an effort backed by Republicans — and altering Illinois' political redistricting process.

    The initiatives haven't had as visible a promotion as the contested races, and some political experts believe voters may just skip them.

    "These are not part of Illinois political culture," said David Yepsen, director of Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. "Voters aren't used to it."

    Here's a look at the measures:

    BIRTH CONTROL

    Democratic lawmakers pushed an advisory ballot measure in the final days of the spring legislative session that asks if insurance companies should cover birth control.

    While Illinois has had such a law since 2003, supporters say widespread voter approval will ensure future protections. As evidence, they cite the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision saying employers with religious objections could opt out of a federal rule requiring that insurers cover contraceptives.

    Republicans say the last-minute ballot measure is an obvious ploy to boost Democratic votes, especially since it's already law.

    Two Chicago-based political action committees have taken to social media to garner support, including Planned Parenthood Illinois Action. A second committee, Save Birth Control in Illinois, says it's trying to lay groundwork for legislation requiring employers to provide notice to employees about exclusions in health insurance plans' contraceptive coverage.

    MILLIONAIRE TAX

    This measure, sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, proposes charging Illinoisans who make over $1 million a 3 percent income tax surcharge to raise funds for education.

    An attempt to pass the tax as legislation stalled. Democratic leaders then posed the idea as a nonbinding ballot question to gauge public support.

    The Internal Revenue Service says Illinois had over 14,500 tax returns in 2011 from households where adjusted gross income was at least $1 million. Madigan has said the tax would raise $1 billion annually.

    Republicans say the measure is purely political. Republican Bruce Rauner, a venture capitalist challenging Gov. Pat Quinn, earned $61 million in 2013.

    MINIMUM WAGE

    This non-binding ballot question asks voters if Illinois should increase its minimum wage to $10 from $8.25 by 2015, parallel to a Democratic effort to push the issue in campaigns nationwide.

    Sponsors say they're hoping to use the results to renew a legislative push for approval.

    It's been a major issue in the governor's race. Quinn has vowed to raise it, despite previous attempts falling short. Rauner at one point said he wanted to cut the state's minimum wage, but has changed his stance, now saying he'd favor raising it with other reforms.

    Business groups oppose an increase, saying it'll kill jobs.

    VOTERS' RIGHTS

    Voters will be asked to change the state constitution to prevent people from being denied the right to register or vote based on race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, among other things.

    The measure had bipartisan support, including among top Democrats and Republicans.

    It's aimed at ensuring Illinois doesn't adopt voter identification laws like those passed in several states since the beginning of 2013. Republicans said they pushed those laws to prevent voter fraud.
    Democrats say fears of fraud are overblown and the laws are attempts to suppress votes favorable to them.

    CRIME VICTIMS' RIGHTS

    This question asks if crime victims should have more rights protected by the constitution during court proceedings and criminal trials. The Crime Victims' Bill of Rights would ensure they have information about hearings and plea negotiations, access to restitution and protections against alleged perpetrators.

    The proposal is patterned after "Marsy's Law," which California voters approved in 2008 after the murder of a college student.

    Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved putting the measure on the ballot. But among opponents was House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who argued that such standards could slow trials and should be dealt with through laws, not the constitution.

    Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan backs it, saying crime victims are "owed a voice."