Illinois holds its 2014 primary on March 18. In midterm years, Illinois has the nation’s second-earliest primary; only Texas has an earlier primary. No other state in 2014 will hold a primary earlier than May 6.
Illinois voters standing in line to vote in the primary are likely to be asked to sign a statewide initiative petition. A proposed constitutional amendment to impose legislative term limits has been circulating since September 2013, and supporters feel they need 450,000 signatures to meet the requirement of 298,400. Therefore, they are petitioning near polling places, because voters standing in line to vote are invariably registered voters, and provide high-quality signatures.
The initiative would amend the Constitution to shrink the size of the State Senate, increase the size of the House of Representatives, change the vote needed in the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto, and impose legislative term limits of eight years. The term limits portion would not be retroactive and only service after 2014 would count toward the limits, so if the measure passes, the composition of the legislature would not change as a result of the measure until 2022.
Illinois did not have a procedure for legally-binding initiatives until 1970, and the State Constitution says the only binding initiative that can be done is one that changes the “structure and procedure” of the legislature. This is so restrictive, only once has any binding initiative appeared on the ballot. In 1980 an initiative abolishing cumulative voting for the State House appeared on the ballot and passed. In 1994 the State Supreme Court removed a term limits initiative from the ballot, on the grounds that that initiative did not change the “structure and procedure” of the legislature. The vote was 4-3; that case was called Chicago Bar Association v Illinois State Board of Elections, 641 NE 2d 525. The new initiative that is circulating now was written to avoid the legal problem for the 1994 measure.