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Illinois Governor Recall Amendment Passes With Two-Thirds Of Vote

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The Illinois constitution was changed last night, with an amendment swept in by a wide margin.

Over two million voters approved a process for the public to recall governors during their term, giving the measure well over the 60 percent of voters required for its passage. The amendment is widely viewed as a reaction to the corruption charges against former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

In order for a recall to be initiated, around 500,000 voters would need to sign a petition, including at least 100 signatures in at least 25 different counties -- that is, not all the names could come from Chicago. Also, at least ten Republicans from the State House, ten House Democrats, five Senate Republicans and five Senate Democrats would have to sign off on the recall.

Within 100 days of the signatures being ratified by the State Board of Elections, a measure to recall the governor would go before the entire state, with 50% of voters required to send the governor home.

One hitch: it might not be constitutional.

The ACLU wrote an editorial last week in the Chicago Tribune, pointing out that the 100-signature provision could violate standing legal principles:

The Illinois amendment requires that a recall petition be signed by a number of voters equal to at least 15 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election, with at least 100 signatures from each of at least 25 separate counties. It is this requirement for voter signatures from multiple counties that throws an unconstitutional wrench in the works.

Nearly 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the core principle of one person, one vote.

Illinois' proposed amendment violates this principle because by requiring 100 signatures from each of at least 25 separate counties, the signatures of electors in less populous counties will have greater value than the signatures of electors in more populous counties. While one person, one vote generally requires election districts to have approximately equal numbers of voters, the populations of registered voters in Illinois counties vary widely, from 3,376 in Pope County to nearly 2.9 million in Cook County.

A court challenge could put the amendment on hold. But it's cleared the first hurdle: winning over Illinois voters.