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Our View: Power to the people

Published: Friday, July 4, 2014 9:09 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 4, 2014 9:18 p.m. CDT

If Illinois’ political leaders were half as good at solving our state’s problems as they are at keeping voters from having their voices heard, our state would be in much better shape.

Unfortunately, our state’s cadre of ruling Democrats are much more serious about preserving the status quo than more practical matters like balancing the budget or crafting a real solution to the pension crisis. The way they are able to manipulate the system to bend it to their will is proof positive that sweeping and serious change is needed in Illinois.

Two public-initiated ballot questions, both with widespread popular support, were proposed for the November ballot this year. Thus far, the state’s political overlords, led by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, have succeeded in vanquishing one of them and have backers of another on the ropes.

Last week, Cook County Circuit Judge Mary Mikva decided the measures didn’t meet constitutional requirements and ruled them invalid.

The ruling spelled the end of the line for the Yes for Independent Maps group, which spent $3 million on the effort over the past two years in an effort to remove politics from the way the state draws legislative boundaries.

Almost from the moment the group filed a petition with about 500,000 signatures from voters from around Illinois, they faced challenges from lawyers representing the powers that be. There were challenges at the Illinois State Board of Elections to the validity of those signatures, and a lawsuit contending the proposed amendment to the constitution was illegal.

The same is true in the case of the term limits amendment, whose proponents include Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, who championed the term limits cause in 1994, is not behind this effort.

The term limits amendment’s petitions pass muster but not its question, according to Mikva. Backers have vowed to appeal their case to the Illinois Supreme Court, because that is what it takes to make change in Illinois – millions, hundreds of thousands of signatures, and sufficient resources to appeal a case to the highest level.

It should not be so. These are not fringe elements of society proposing something radical. They are serious and sober proposals for making real change to Illinois’ constitution. The fact that even with so many signatures they can not find their way onto the ballot is a poor reflection on our state’s government and its constitution in general.

It’s clear this process isn’t about the will of the people. While legislators have placed several meaningless advisory questions on the ballot, questions proposing real change with almost 1 million signatures combined in support are shut out.

Now that at least one judge has decided to turn her back on the people she serves, it will become that much more difficult to effect cultural change in our troubled state.

We hope the backers of the term limits initiative will continue their legal fight and that ultimately this case will end up before judges who realize the government of a right ought to belong to the voters, not those who conspire to control them.

Who would have thought that the leaders of our state’s “Democratic” party would be so frightened of actual democracy? Let the people vote and shape government according to their will.

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