By JOHN KINDT
“If you don’t trust Springfield, vote NO on the November ballot’s Constitutional Amendment,” some legislative candidates advise. “If you trust Springfield, vote YES” to concentrate more budgetary power in Springfield.
Voters will not even know what they are voting for or against, because the proposed amendment is not printed on the ballot. There is only a brief summary “explanation.”
On Oct. 17, John Bambenek, a Senate candidate from Champaign, filed the case of Bambenek v. Illinois State Board of Elections objecting to the ballot’s constitutional irregularities and asking that the court rule the vote to be nonbinding.
The ballot’s summary “explanation” is provided by the same Springfield leadership which made Illinois the state with the nation’s worst state budgetary crisis — including $83 billion in unfunded liabilities. The Bambenek case highlights that the ballot’s “explanation” basically consists of one sentence following some introductory wording.
To make the Bambenek case apolitical, plaintiff John Bambenek asked his opponent, Sen. Michael Frerichs, to join as a plaintiff, but according to local media accounts to date, Sen. Frerichs has declined to join the Bambenek case.
Given his public service, Frerichs should join the case — as should all legislative candidates who might be having second thoughts regarding the constitutional propriety of what is printed on the ballot.
When some legislators and media ask the public to vote YES for a constitutional amendment which is not even printed on the ballot, they are arguably testing the limits of democracy itself. Bambenek’s attorney, Mark Hewitt, believes the case could quickly go to the Illinois Supreme Court.