Saturday, July 15, 2006

Democracy Chicago style

The following is the complete news story printed in the Peoria Journal Star on July 6, 2006, page B6 by Doug Finke, Copley News Service.  “Gay marriage referendum may not qualify for ballot.”

“An advisory referendum asking Illinois voters if they want to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage may not have enough valid signatures to make it on the November ballot, a preliminary analysis by the state Board of Elections shows.

State law requires that at least 95 percent of the signatures to place the issue on the ballot must be valid.  However, a statistical sampling conducted by the board of the petition signatures found only 91 percent of them to be valid.  That would leave the issue short of the signatures needed to place it on the ballot.

Referendum backers said they will challenge the analysis.

‘This finding is a momentary setback, but we remain hopeful that the citizens will have the opportunity to affirm marriage as between one man and one woman,’ Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, said in a written statement.”

When I first read this article I thought it was incomplete even by the standards of the Peoria Journal Star.  For starters, it doesn’t begin to explain the “why” question of journalism.  Why were the signatures being rejected?

I had a very, very, very minor role in gathering signatures.  However, because of my involvement I am now on the e-mail list for Family Taxpayers Network—the organization that was probably most responsible for gathering the number of signatures gathered.  Their website is  

I’m going to do something unusual for me.  I’m going to quote from an article from that website without comment.  It is rather long but worth reading.  I am not changing any part of the material except for using the full word(s) instead of abbreviations.  I’m doing this for the sake of clarity.  I did leave out a few paragraphs but none that would alter to context of the material.

“Family Taxpayers Network is not involved on the legal side now that the petitions have been filed and the review continues at the Board of Elections.  Protect Marriage Illinois has retained its own lawyer and that work continues under Protect Marriage Illinois’s direction.  However, Family Taxpayers Network will continue to follow the developments.

Here’s where things now stand.  Last week, the Illinois State Board of Elections announced that the petitions had narrowly failed the state’s sampling procedure.  The sampling needed to support a finding that the entire submission would include valid signatures equaling at least 95% of the 283,111 minimum signatures required.

The sampling indicated that 91% of the goal would be reached.  While very respectable numbers were achieved from the sampling, this is still a small setback.  Passing the first sampling phase would have meant by-passing some additional hurdles.  But all this means is that additional work must be done.

Fortunately for Protect Marriage Illinois, they now have an opportunity to repair enough signatures to pass the sampling step.  Assuming this can be done—the Board of Elections would then decide whether or not to entertain the objections already filed by liberal Democrats and gay marriage advocates.  Alternatively, the Board could decide to certify the referendum for the ballot at that stage.

Protect Marriage Illinois should be able to ultimately prevail on appeal regarding the sampling stage procedure.  Sampling was performed independently by County and City Clerks all across Illinois.  Petitions were submitted from every one of Illinois’ 102 Counties, and each area had to be sampled separately.

The sampling procedure actually went better than expected in nearly every Illinois jurisdiction.  The exceptions were the reviews performed by the City of Chicago and Cook County.  The Protect Marriage Illinois sampling was clearly harmed by liberal bias and subjective staff rulings regarding many individual signatures in these two jurisdictions.  (My underlining)    

While Family Taxpayers Network did not lead-up the monitoring effort, we did provide assistance.  What observers witnessed at the Chicago and Cook County Board of Elections was a tragic derailing of democracy.  Many obviously valid signatures were not counted in the sample simply because a City or County employee made a subjective determination that a signature on a petition did not “sufficiently match” that voter’s signature on file with the Board of Election.  (My underlining)

For example, if someone had signed a shortened version of her or his first name on the petition, but 20 years before had signed a voter registration card using their full first name—that signature could be subjectively invalidated for purposes of the sample.  Protect Marriage Illinois observers witnessed just this type of disenfranchisement occur during the Chicago and Cook County sampling—even when the signature was clearly by the proper person who was in fact a registered voter.

These types of decisions can and will be appealed of course.  But keep in mind that these pending challenges are not reflected in the raw sampling numbers which were just released.

The problems in sampling procedure now put an unfair burden back on Protect Marriage Illinois to in essence further prove that certain valid signatures are truly valid.  It’s basically like someone having to prove their innocence and that they didn’t commit fraud.  It’s a legal standard that we doubt exists anywhere outside of the election arena.

Everyone expected the sampling results from Chicago and Cook County to be lower than the rest of the state.  But Chicago came in with such a low rate—it pulled the entire state average down tremendously for the sample.  Protect Marriage Illinois is confident that while the Chicago validity rate is certainly lower than elsewhere—that once mistakes and bias are corrected for—the statewide sample should pass.”

“One of the remarkable stories to come out of this effort is the tremendous participation by Black Churches on the south and west sides of Chicago.  In fact, approximately one-third of all petition submissions came from minority communities.  This is just one more example of how the Illinois Republican Party missed an historic opportunity….”  (My underlining)

“Again, it’s too early to say whether or not the protect marriage referendum will appear on the November ballot.  It could go either way, and a difficult fight is still ahead in any case for Protect Marriage Illinois.

But no one thought the effort would get nearly this far.  The fact that over 60,000 more people signed the protect marriage petition than voted for the GOP’s nominee for Governor in March is remarkable.”  (My underlining)

“As Jessie Smart, Chairman of the Illinois Board of Elections said yesterday in a status hearing, ‘I can’t understand why anyone would object to give the voters a chance to express their opinions.’

Incredibly, voters deserve an answer not just from liberal Democratsbut also from Topinka and the Illinois GOP on that question.  (My underlining)

Posted July 6, 2006”    



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