A constitution is the law of the land only to the extent that it’s enforced. And in Illinois, the right of citizen initiative — provided for in the state constitution — is not enforced.
The constitution’s wording is explicit: “Amendments . . . may be proposed by a petition signed by a [specified number of electors]. . . . Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.”
Does that Article IV discuss the subject of election procedures, including eligibility requirements, thereby opening the door to a citizen-initiated term limits amendment? Yes, it does. Section 2, subsection (c), for example, specifies citizenship, age, and residency requirements.
Yet the Illinois Supreme Court has repeatedly chucked the results of effective petition drives to get a state legislative term limits question on the ballot.
The justices rely on the venerable Fallacy of Tortured Misreading.
Former Illinois legislator Jim Nowlin recently pointed out that in 1976, the court concluded that the wording about how initiative proposals “‘shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects’. . . meant a proposal must make both kinds of changes.” The lone dissenter on the court “opined to the effect: When I see a restaurant sign that says, ‘We have chicken and fish,’ that doesn’t mean you have to order both chicken and fish!”
The right of citizen initiative is a crucial means of reforming government when those in government won’t reform themselves. The citizens of Illinois have that right. But, for now, they also don’t.
That ain’t Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.