GOP Leaders unveil project to give voters more power in their democratic process

The Illinois Senate and House Republicans today unveiled their Voter Empowerment Project, a legislative package designed to allow Illinois voters a more active role in their democratic process.

“The Voter Empowerment Project is a way to give Illinoisans democratic freedoms that are currently denied to them,” said Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). “This package will give voters greater ability to amend the state’s constitution, the authority to repeal laws the public finds unpopular, and the option to remove politicians from office who have broken the public trust.”

The package includes three mirrored Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendments (SJRCA) and House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendments (HJRCA).

SJRCA 1 / HJRCA 5 amends the Illinois Constitution to allow Illinois voters to make more substantive changes to their constitution. The Illinois Constitution currently limits citizen-initiative amendments to specified structural and procedural subjects. This amendment would put voters in the driver’s seat, allowing them to circulate petitions for and vote on constitutional amendments on key issues that are important to their lives, such as redistricting.

“The Voter Empowerment Project finally gives the people of Illinois a chance to control and have a voice in their government,” said Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). “This package will be the check and balance Illinoisans need after decades of absolute power by one man in the House.”

SJRCA 2 / HJRCA 6 amends the Illinois Constitution to permit citizens the ability to initiate up-or-down referendums on newly passed laws. By giving citizens the right to veto unpopular or rushed legislation, the amendment would allow voters a form of popular redress to political overreach and unwanted mandates.

Unlike nearly half of the states, Illinois does not permit its citizens to ratify or veto bills passed by its legislature. If the General Assembly passes a bill and it is signed by the Governor, it is nearly impossible to get that legislation overturned.

Under the proposal, citizens will have 90 days to circulate a petition and collect signatures equal to five percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to force a voter referendum on the legislation.

“These constitutional amendments are designed to be a first step toward taking power from the entrenched political class and returning it to the people,” said State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington). “The people of Illinois deserve to have a government that is efficient, responsive, accountable, and I believe these three amendments are a part of getting to that point.”

SJRCA 3 / HJRCA 4 amends the Illinois Constitution to allow voters to recall more elected officials, including members of the General Assembly and local government officials. The amendment broadens and strengthens recall options and removes the requirement that a certain number of partisan elected officials must approve the recall.

Recall petitions would be required to meet a signature threshold prior to the holding of a recall election. In order to recall an elected official, 60 percent or more of the voters would have to vote in favor of the recall.

Illinois’ recall provisions currently only allow for the recall of the governor, and the threshold to force a gubernatorial recall is such that, despite Illinois’ history of sending governors to jail, none have ever been recalled.

“It’s great to join Leader Durkin, Leader McConchie, and Senator Barickman to discuss this important issue and bring forth solutions to give more say to Illinoisans in their government,” said State Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Oswego). “I’m confident these changes will empower citizens and voters across Illinois to hold elected officials accountable and help end corruption in our state.”

Click here to review more detailed information on the amendments.

Dan McConchie

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