12/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Constitutional Convention Rejected By Voters

Illinois voters decided against a constitutional convention referendum Tuesday, but the question may live on in the courts.

With 92 percent of precincts reporting, the referendum has 2,761,831 "no" votes, or 68 percent, and 1,313,853 "yes" votes, or 32 percent.

The referendum asked voters whether the state should call a constitutional convention, which would allow officials to examine and rewrite the constitution. Voters would have to approve any proposed changes. State law requires the question to be on the ballot every 20 years.

Proponents of the measure said Tuesday night they might sue over the way the referendum was worded on the ballot.

Cook County Circuit County Judge Nathaniel Howse last month ruled the language on the ballot was unconstitutional. Howse said the explanation of the referendum had false and biased information.

Howse ordered poll workers to hand out blue fliers about the misleading wording.

But Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, one of the referendum's most fervent supporters, said many voters called him reporting county clerks who refused to pass out the fliers.

"We didn't have much of a chance," he said. "The point is every election should be fair and equal. I think that's a principle worth fighting for."

Quinn said he and other referendum supporters would decide Wednesday whether to file a lawsuit.

Supporters argued a constitutional convention would liberate Illinois from gridlocked state politics. Opponents backed by a $600,000 ad campaign said a convention would result in unnecessary changes pushed by interest groups.

Jeff Mays, co-chair of the Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution, which was against the referendum, said now he and others can concentrate on fixing state politics through more realistic methods, like electing new leadership and pushing constitutional amendments. The Alliance included the League of Women Voters, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Farm Bureau and AFL-CIO of Illinois.

"I'm glad this chapter appears to be behind us," Mays said, "but I'm absolutely committed to restoring the faith of the people."

Many voters said they doubted what a convention could accomplish.

"It's gonna be expensive and I don't know how helpful it will really be," said Kevin Bastuba, a 28-year-old Democratic voter in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. "I don't think our current constitution is in bad shape, I just think we need to have state leaders that will uphold the one with have."

The convention referendum was also defeated the last time it was on the ballot, in 1988. Voters then went 3-1 against the question.

Delegates to the last convention, in 1969, crafted that bill of rights and streamlined government by throwing out archaic laws and language that weighed down the previous constitution.