Illinois' statewide ballot asks voters questions outside of races for governor, legislature, and Congress.
November 03, 2014

Answers About The Questions At The Top Of The Ballot

Voters on Tuesday won't just vote on governor or state representative. They'll be asked if Illinois should change its constitution.  And to weigh in on a trio of non-binding questions.

It's one thing to pass a law. Politicians do that all the time; Illinois passed 500 last year alone.

But constitutional amendments are different. They're relatively rare, and harder to get through (and once changes are made, they're difficult to undo).

"I think we have amended our state constitution about 12 times and that's it. We just don't do it. We are not inclined to tinker with our constitution," said Ann Lousin, a professor at the John Marshall law school. She helped write Illinois' constitution in 1970. And she's almost right -- since then it has been amended 11 times.

It possible - likely even -- that Illinois will add two more to the list by the time this election is over; a recent poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute shows wide support for both.

The first question actually piggybacks on a constitutional amendment passed a couple decades ago, when voters approved a so-called Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. Requiring things like that a crime victim be notified of court proceedings, to be present in court, and to be able to make a statement when a perpetrator's sentenced.

Polly Poskin, who heads the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault says in order to get that done, advocates made compromises.

"We agreed at the time that there would not be the enforcement mechanism," Poskin said. "That we would get Bill of Rights in, we would see how it was implemented and and how it worked. And then in time we would see for the necessity of the enforcement mechanism."

Time passed. And Poskin says, it has become clear that putting some "teeth" into it is is a necessity.

That's what this new amendment would do. It has its critics, still; the Illinois Bar Association for one, which fears it'll add a bigger burden to an overburdened judicial system. And Lousin, who, in an opinion piece published in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, called it "flawed."

That was her description of the second constitutional amendment, too, which also established a Bill of Rights of sorts, this one protecting voters.

Let's go back to April, when it was first introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan, who told a legislative committee: "The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that all citizens have an opportunity to register and vote and to prevent the passage of inappropriate voter suppression laws and discriminatory voting procedures."

To which Republican Rep., Ron Sandack of Downer's Grove, asked, "is anyone aware right now of people being denied the right to register or actually cast a ballot based on some of these protected classes that are being expanded?"

Madigan answered by giving examples of states requiring voters to show IDs; a practice that advocates say disproportionately blocks poor and minority voters.

Critics of the plan say Illinois doesn't need it. The measure pretty much mirrors rights guaranteed in the federal Voting Rights Act.

That's why Lousin says it's unnecessary; but she also points out that while it extended special protections to voters based on their income, sexual orientation, or race, it leaves out special protections to someone based on their political party, or if they have a physical or mental disability.

To enshrine either of these proposals in the Illinois constitution will require 3/5 of voters to say "yes."

There are three other questions on the statewide ballot, too. But these are non-binding referenda. It's like using the election to poll voters, to gauge popular opinion.

One asks if Illinois should raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour, a topic that's played a large role in this year's midterm election, including in the race for Illinois governor.

Another asks if Illinois should require health insurance to cover birth control. Illinois law already requires that, but backers -- like Planned Parenthood's Brigid Leahy -- say given court rulings, this sends a message.

"What happened was the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case, and now some employers can refuse to provide full coverage for basic womens' health care," Leahy said at the Governor's Day state fair rally, where she was collecting signatures from people pledging to vote "yes" on the question. "And what we want to do is let Illinois lawmakers and leaders know that this is an important issue to the people of Illinois, and if that if there are things that they can do to help people get access, we want them to do it."

The third non-binding question asks voters if they favor adding a tax surcharge on income over a million dollars, with the money going toward education.

Speaker Madigan, who also heads the state's Democratic Party, is sponsor of that plan too (he'd tried putting it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, but -- in a rare defeat -- was unable to garner enough support and so settled for making it a referendum).

"Those that will be called upon to pay this surcharge have done pretty well in Illinois, they've done pretty well in America," Madigan said. "We're simply saying to them, 'you've done well, in this county' and we'd like to call upon you to do a little more for those that are involved in lower education."

Madigan admitted early on that, in some years, he'd be paying that surcharge.

So, of course, would Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner, whose wealth has been a huge point of contention in his race against Gov. Pat Quinn.

Republicans say it's obvious why Democrats tacked the referendums onto the ballot; they say it's a thinly-disguised attempt to get more Democrats to the polls.

Even if voters say "yes," don't look for Illinois to implement a millionaire's tax anytime soon. Doing that would require -- you guessed it -- an amendment to the constitution. It's worth noting that all of the questions on the ballot were put there by the General Assembly. It's much harder for regular citizens to do.

Two constitutional amendment questions proposed by residents this year were knocked off the ballot by a court, which ruled that neither met the narrow requirements the constitution lays out for citizens' initiative, despite collectively gathering more than a million signatures on petitions in support of getting a spot on the ballot.

An effort to take lawmakers' ability to draw their own legislative districts is expected to try again in the future, by making revisions to its redistricting plan.

The campaign for the other proposal knocked from the ballot was funded and promoted by Rauner; it would have instituted legislative term limits.

Rauner sought to use it against Quinn, is seeking to becoming one of Illinois' longest-serving governors (if he's re-elected and serves out his term, Quinn will have been governor for a decade).

It's an area where Quinn should be able to relate: back in 1994 he tried to get a term limits question on the ballot, but the courts deemed the plan unconstitutional.

Listen

November 01, 2014

Sparknotes For Illinois Voters

For voters who want a rundown of where Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner stand on major issues, here's some help.

Illinoisians have been casting votes in an election that could determine the future of our state… But many voters say that while they want to know more about Democratic Governor Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner’s plans for Illinois - they can’t sift through the fog of negative ads. So Lauren Chooljian of Chicago public radio station WBEZ wrote up a questionnaire for both candidates on the top issues of this cycle… And she’s dug through their answers and put them into a sort of audio Sparknotes for Illinois voters.

Listen

October 31, 2014

Former Governor Edgar To Help Rauner's Campaign

Former Gov. Jim Edgar will campaign with fellow Republican Bruce Rauner as Rauner makes his final push to become Illinois' next governor.

Edgar is scheduled to join Rauner Monday in Bloomington, Springfield, Moline, Rockford and the Chicago suburbs.
 
Rauner is in a tight race with Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
 
Edgar supported then-state Sen. Kirk Dillard in the GOP primary. He says in a statement Friday that after 12 years of Democratic governors "voters are eager for change'' and Rauner is "exactly what Illinois needs.''
 
They'll also stump Monday night for Republican Bob Dold, who's challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider in the 10th Congressional District.
 
First lady Michelle Obama is headlining a Saturday rally for Quinn and other Democrats in Moline. She's among several top Democrats who've campaigned for Quinn.


Bruce Rauner
October 23, 2014

Rauner Keeping His Distance From Reporter's Resignation

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner says his campaign didn't cause a longtime Chicago Sun-Times reporter to quit.

Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney resigned Wednesday, after he says the paper tried to push him out of his political beat.

McKinney said the Rauner campaign tried to kill a story that detailed allegations of a former business associate. In a sworn affidavit, the business partner says Rauner threatened her and her family.

Rauner's campaign failed to stop the story, but the campaign alleged McKinney had a conflict of interest because his wife is a Democratic political consultant.

McKinney said his wife works on out-of-state campaigns, and had taken special precaution to avoid any involvement in the race for governor.

After being temporarily suspended, McKinney said he quit because the protections between journalists and management had eroded, as Rauner had been a part-owner of the paper until last year.

But Rauner, who campaigned in Champaign Thursday, said he's not involved.

Listen to full exchange between Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and Illinois Public Media reporter Hannah Meisel about former Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney.

"I don't know, I don't know all the issues in that. I've had no involvement with that," he said.  "Our campaign expressed concern with an article we thought was extremely misleading and badly done but that goes on with media outlets all the time, there's nothing unusual about that."

Rauner's campaign wished McKinney well, and the candidate says the campaign did nothing wrong.

"I know that our campaign staff was very upset and talked with reporters and I believe editors at the Sun-Times about that particular article but that's part of the standard process, went through the proper channels," said Rauner. "It sounds like the Sun-Times has internal management issues and I have no interest getting in the middle of that, that has nothing to do with our campaign."

After three years of not endorsing candidates, the paper's editorial board endorsed Rauner on Sunday.

Listen

October 22, 2014

Reporter Resigns Following Rauner Complaint

The longtime Springfield bureau chief of the Chicago Sun-Times has resigned amid controversy over interactions between the Sun Times and the Republican candidate for governor.

Dave McKinney reported a story this month that details allegations of Bruce Rauner threatening a former business associate.

Rauner has since denied the merits of that story.

But both McKinney and Sun-Times Publisher and Editor in Chief Jim Kirk say in statements that the Rauner campaign attacked the paper over the story.

The Rauner campaign questioned the relationship between McKinney’s reporting and his wife’s work as a Democratic consultant.

They point to similarities in language in a Democratic poll on this topic and McKinney’s story.

The Rauner campaign says they asked the Sun Times to print a disclosure of the relationship in the story.

The Sun Times did not print that.

The Sun Times and partner NBC then went ahead with the story, but the paper put McKinney on a temporary leave while Kirk says the paper ensured there was no conflict.

In his resignation letter, McKinney contends his wife has a legal firewall between her work and any Illinois political campaigns.

And he says the newspaper hasn’t consistently backed him and his reporting around this controversy.

Kirk says in a statement that McKinney is ``among the best'' in the profession but his work was put on ``pause'' to ensure no conflicts of interest. Kirk says the paper's management respects journalistic integrity and never quashed a story.  

Rauner is a former investor in the Sun-Times' parent company, Wrapports LLC.


October 20, 2014

Thousands Head To Polls On First Day Of Early Voting

Thousands of voters have cast early ballots in Chicago's suburbs.  It's been a critical region in previous elections, and campaigns in hotly-contested races are pushing early voting.  

Cook County Clerk David Orr's website showed about 7,000 ballots cast in the suburbs by Monday afternoon, the first day of early voting.

Village halls in Arlington Heights and Des Plaines are among hundreds of early voting locations open through Nov. 2.  
 
Some county clerks in Illinois reported similar turnout to years past with a steady stream of voters.  
 
Republican Bob Ruffatto of Arlington Heights says he's concerned with Illinois' unsolved problems like debt. He voted for Republican Bruce Rauner, who's challenging Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
 
But Democrat Josephine Dobner of Des Plaines voted for Quinn, saying she believes in her party's principles.


Decision 2014 logo for the November 4th election.
October 20, 2014

Quinn, Rauner Prepare For Last Debate

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner are getting ready for their third and likely final televised debate.

Monday night's debate comes as the two candidates are locked in a neck-and-neck contest for governor.
 
It's being hosted by the League of Women Voters of Illinois and broadcast by WLS-TV in Chicago.
 
Quinn and Rauner have gotten personal and at times nasty in other candidate forums as they duel over economic plans and dispute school funding plans.
 
The 60-minute back-and-forth could be their last chance to make their case, hammer home themes and undercut their rival before a large television audience.
 
A poll released Friday by Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute suggests the race is too close to call roughly two weeks before the vote.

Meanwhile, Rauner picked up the endorsements of several newspapers over the weekend, including the Champaign News-Gazette and Chicago Sun-Times.


Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner greet before a debate in Chicago Tuesday.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
October 15, 2014

Quinn, Rauner Square Off in Second Debate

Governor Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner continue to battle over what's best for Illinois’ future.   The top candidates debated for the second time Tuesday night in Chicago.

The focus of last night’s debate was mostly African-American voters - and the issues they’ll be thinking about in the polling booth next month.

And it’s obvious that both candidates on stage at the DuSable Museum at the Museum of African American History realize the importance of tallying up those votes.

"My investments and my donations to the African American community have totaled 10s of millions of dollars," said Rauner.

"We’ve opened up the doors to many more contracts - I think it’s up to 1000 contracts, for African-American owned businesses," said Quinn.

Both candidates also wasted no time trying to cut their opponent down to size.

"My opponent had 51 executives in his company - no African Americans, not one," said Quinn

"Pat Quinn is taking the African-American vote for granted, he’s talking but not delivering results," said Rauner.

Questions from the panel of journalists zeroed in on crime, jobs, gun control, the minimum wage and education.


Bruce Rauner and running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti at the Pilsen Mexican Independence Day parade.
October 14, 2014

Politicians On Parade

Children had the day off from school Monday in honor of Columbus Day. Despite the rain, both Governor Pat Quinn and his GOP rival Bruce Rauner celebrated by walking down State St., for Chicago's Columbus Day parade.

In an age when campaigns are increasingly high-tech, Amanda Vinicky took to the streets to find out why so many politicians spend so much time pounding the pavement.

Candidates have less than a month left to complete their missions. Grasping for your attention, and convincing you to vote for them on election day.

Mostly they do it through expensive commercials during your favorite T.V. shows. Sometimes, it's through a glossy brochure in your mailbox. Or perhaps it's a sponsored ad that pops up in your Facebook or Twitter feed. In the modern age of campaigning, strategists can even use "micro targeting" to pinpoint just what issues you most care about.

So why would Bruce Rauner, a businessman who so far has pumped more than $17 million dollars into his bid for governor, spend a sunny, September Saturday, walking down a street in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood for the Mexican Independence Day parade, where he could get "booed" -- like by a set of parade goers who shouted "Quinn's my man!"

It wasn't all bad for Rauner; he also met fans as he stopped to chat up nearly every person along the route, saying "Viva La Independencia! Viva! Great to see you! Enjoy the parade!"

Chicago residents Jesse Montoya and Toni Reynoso both say they'd seen Rauner's commercial but wanted more details about him and his plans. Both lean Republican, so supporting Rauner isn't a big stretch. But they say meeting him in person helped lock in their votes.

Gov. Pat Quinn wasn't at this particular parade -- though both he and Rauner walked in another one the following day. But Quinn's lieutenant governor candidate, Paul Vallas, was.

Vallas didn't walk past a hand without shaking it, even ducking inside to quickly meet people watching the festivities from a coffee shop. A considerable effort, given how many miles he's presumably logged in parades over the campaign season.

Rauner says he walked in fifteen during the Fourth of July weekend.

Practically every town has an Independence Day parade. But politicians have plenty of other opportunities. It seems like there's a parade for just about everything.

"It starts in Quincy. Usually, the first Saturday in May is the Dogwood Festival, that Sen. Mary Kent started when the dogwoods bloomed," says State Rep. Jil Tracy is a Republican from west-central Illinois. "And then we usually ... one of the biggest ones is the Beardstown parade. And what they do is coordinate it when they have all the high school band competitions. I seriously think it went out for three miles. And I can't tell you how much you spend in candy on that!"

Probably not a bad way to get votes, and to raise name recognition.

Tracy says there are also other reasons for a candidate to hit the parade circuit.

"You know, it's a good chance to let people know that you care about their community," she says. "Because that's usually why you have a parade. It's celebrating something. You want to see what they're doing and how their community's doing. I've walked down a lot of bad roads and streets. and then you know that these cities and towns need economic recovery."

You can learn a lot about a district and its residents by parading through it.

That's was the experience of Lt. Gov Sheila Simon, who's now running for comptroller, when she walked in the Bud Billikin parade this summer.

The parade is on Chicago's south side. It's one of the oldest and largest parades in the nation, and a "must" for politicians. This year, however, two people were shot near the route.

"It was eye opening," Simon says. "Because my husband and I, from Carbondale, are standing there thinking -- were they fireworks? Or was that gunfire? And to realize that a whole lot of the people around us, number one, knew right away that it was gunfire, and knew what to do -- was to drop down, and here we were were standing up -- I learned a lot, about a culture of violence that people are used to and planning for. And that was, that was a sad thing."

Back at the festive, party-like atmosphere of Pilsen's Mexican Independence Day Parade, Rauner and Vallas keep at it. Shaking hands, meeting voters. Neither are handing out candy --- just stickers and campaign brochures. Between the cowboys on horseback, a beauty queen and dancers twirling in grand, bright costumers, you have to figure that two guys in street clothes aren't a major draw.

"I'm out here with my family, I'm not looking for politicians," says Stella Reyes, a mother who lives in the neighborhood.

And that's right after meeting both Rauner, and Vallas.

Reyes may not be looking for politicians, but you can be sure politicians will continue looking for her to cast a vote. And hoping that maybe, just maybe, that brief bit of face time will increase the chances Reyes will join the parade of voters heading to the polls on election day.

Listen

Bruce Rauner
October 11, 2014

Rauner Releases 2013 Tax Returns

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has released his 2013 federal and Illinois income tax returns.  

The eight pages of tax forms show the multi-millionaire and his wife, Diana, earned nearly $61 million last year. He paid $17 million in federal and state taxes. That is a tax rate of about 27.5 percent.  

The returns also show the Rauners donated more than $5 million to charity. That includes $1 million to Red Cross relief efforts after the Washington, Illinois tornado.  

In releasing the returns late Friday, Rauner took an opportunity to take a shot at Gov. Pat Quinn. Rauner said he is independent of special interests, adding Quinn put self-dealing and cronyism ahead of the people.  

A spokeswoman for Quinn is calling Rauner's tax returns disclosure inadequate.  

In her statement, Quinn campaign spokeswoman Brooke Anderson called the information ``wholly insufficient and raises more questions than answers.'' Anderson questioned where Rauner's money comes from and ``what loopholes is he jumping through?''  

Quinn has long called on Rauner to release his tax returns.  

 
 


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