Wednesday, September 24, 2008

VOTE “NO”: “Con-con” is a con

I must admit that when I received my little blue booklet in the mail on Saturday, I didn’t realize I was holding in my hands evidence of an attempt by the corrupt political hacks of this state to scare we, the people, out of approving a Constitutional Convention to consider making changes to the 38-year-old document.

And now that I look at the booklet after having heard Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn’s accusation that the wording of the question to be placed on the Nov. 4 election ballots is biased, I still don’t see it.

IT’S TOO BAD that Quinn didn’t wait until Sunday to make his latest announcement (that he’s prepared to go to court to challenge the wording of the ballot question). It would have been totally in character for him to hold a weekend news conference so as to get all those real news-starved television broadcasts out to cover him.

Instead, by holding it during the week, he’s going to get the serious-minded people who actually understand the concept of a Constitutional Convention and why it should be considered a radical step, almost a last-resort.

The last thing we should be doing is revising our state’s constitution on a regular basis. As it is, it is embarrassing that our state (which dates back to 1818) went through four different state constitutions before finally coming up with the current version that was approved in December 1970.

That doesn’t mean I have a problem with the issue being up for question in this year’s elections.

WHEN THOSE OF us throughout Illinois go to our polling place to express our support (or disgust) with favorite son Barack Obama’s presidential aspirations, we’re also going to have to decide whether Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., needs to be replaced.

Then, we’ll go through our state legislators, a few county officials (will Anita Alvarez truly become Cook County state’s attorney?) and a few referendum questions that will vary depending on where exactly we live.

Then, our ballots will end with the “con-con” question, which goes as follows:

“In 1988, the electors rejected the call for a constitutional convention, with 75 percent voting against calling a convention and 25 percent voting in favor of calling a convention. If you believe the 1970 Illinois Constitution needs to be revised through the convention profess, vote “YES” on the question of calling a constitutional convention. If you believe that a constitutional convention is not necessary, or that changes can be accomplished by other means, vote “NO” on the calling of a constitutional convention.”

WHEW! THAT’S A mouthful (or should I say a fingerful, since I had to type it out.)

Under our state law, voters have to be given the chance every two decades to decide whether the constitution is so flawed that it needs to be scrapped, and completely rewritten.

If a majority of Illinois voters decide to vote “Yes” to that overly verbose question (I could have written it in half the words), then officials from across the state will gather at a convention, which would try to draft a new document for consideration by the year 2010.

The drafting of a new constitution ought to be a scarce moment in history.

AFTER ALL, IF the existing document is so flawed that it needs to be replaced, then there are some serious problems with our society.

In a sense, it is kind of embarrassing to think that our state’s constitution was created in a post-Apollo 11 mentality – as though the Illinois founders from the early 19th century had nothing worth preserving in terms of their thoughts on the way this state should be governed.

For those who want to argue that things become obsolete, I’d argue that one of the advantages of the U.S. constitution is that it remains from the late-18th century, a testament to the fact that the ideals remain relevant – even if there have been times when our government officials have done a terrible job of implementing them into a daily reality.

If anything, it is those government officials who should be blamed – not the document itself.

I WISH THE people who are so desperately calling for a Constitutional Convention (I can’t stand the term “con con,” it trivializes a significant document) would focus their intention instead on working to defeat the government officials who particularly offend them.

That would be working within the system in a way that would be in complete compliance with “the American way” of doing things.

I say that because I understand many of the people who want a new constitution feel that way because they want to put the concept of “recall elections” into Illinois law. Our state does not now have such special elections, and some people are so determined to be able to dump people from office in mid-term that they now want to rig the rules in their favor.

Will we also get people determined to eliminate the provision of state law that allows for political maps to be drawn by a commission whose tie-breaking member is chosen by a random lottery? I don’t trust the people who argue that computers should draft the maps of legislative and congressional district boundaries randomly, because I wonder if the person who programs the computer is capable of putting his (or her) political bias into the mix.

THAT KIND OF political shortsightedness is why I am skeptical of the need for a Constitutional Convention, even though in theory, the voters could decide in November to have a convention, and the delegates themselves could decide that the existing document is just fine, as-is.

As I read through my blue booklet (published by the Illinois secretary of state’s office), I can’t say I’m terribly swayed by the portion that gives the argument for why there should be a new convention – even though I agree with the idea that the people should be asked to consider this issue every 20 years.

So when I walk into my polling place on Nov. 4 (the recreation room of a Lutheran church in my neighborhood), I’m probably going to vote “No” on the question, along with casting my many other votes.

I’d hope that would put the issue to rest – at least until 2028.

AND FOR THOSE who are upset that the constitution can’t be rewritten to make it easier for them to dump on their political enemies (particularly all those people who can’t stand Rod Blagojevich), I wish they’d put their attention into just trying to find a credible candidate and get him elected.

If they did that, I might very well support them.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Creation of the U.S. constitution brings to mind the image of white men in powdered wigs discussing high-minded principles of democracy. The Illinois constitution’s creation (, by comparison, was done by a batch of guys in polyester suits and wide ties (it was the 1970s).

Is a reminder of the previous rejection of a constitutional convention an illegal attempt to distort the results ( of a new plea to redo the state constitution? Or is Patrick Quinn too desperate for publicity?

For those of you who have become incapable of handling the concept of “ink on paper,” here ( is the official booklet published by the state explaining the “pros” and “cons” of a Constitutional Convention.

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