The State Constitutional

Convention Clearinghouse

U.S. states where the people can use a periodic state constitutional convention referendum
to bypass the legislature's gatekeeping power over constitutional amendment

Illinois Constitutional Conventions

Constitutional Amendment Section
of Illinois’s Constitution

Color Code: Highlights in red; Majority requirements in bold.

Article XIV

Section 1. Constitutional Convention

(a) Whenever three-fifths of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly so direct, the question of whether a Constitutional Convention should be called shall be submitted to the electors at the general election next occurring at least six months after such legislative direction.

(b) If the question of whether a Convention should be called is not submitted during any twenty-year period, the Secretary of State shall submit such question at the general election in the twentieth year following the last submission.

(c) The vote on whether to call a Convention shall be on a separate ballot. A Convention shall be called if approved by three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.

(d) The General Assembly, at the session following approval by the electors, by law shall provide for the Convention and for the election of two delegates from each Senatorial District; designate the time and place of the Convention’s first meeting which shall be within three months after the election of delegates; fix and provide for the pay of delegates and officers; and provide for expenses necessarily incurred by the Convention.

(e) To be eligible to be a delegate a person must meet the same eligibility requirements as a member of the General Assembly. Vacancies shall be filled as provided by law.

(f) The Convention shall prepare such revision of or amendments to the Constitution as it deems necessary. Any proposed revision or amendments approved by a majority of the delegates elected shall be submitted to the electors in such manner as the Convention determines, at an election designated or called by the Convention occurring not less than two nor more than six months after the Convention’s adjournment. Any revision or amendments proposed by the Convention shall be published with explanations, as the Convention provides, at least one month preceding the election.

(g) The vote on the proposed revision or amendments shall be on a separate ballot.  Any proposed revision or amendments shall become effective, as the Convention provides, if approved by a majority of those voting on the question.

Section 2. Amendments by General Assembly

(a) Amendments to this Constitution may be initiated in either house of the General Assembly. Amendments shall be read in full on three different days in each house and reproduced before the vote is taken on final passage.  Amendments approved by the vote of three-fifths of the members elected to each house shall be submitted to the electors at the general election next occurring at least six months after such legislative approval, unless withdrawn by a vote of a majority of the members elected to each house.

(b) Amendments proposed by the General Assembly shall be published with explanations, as provided by law, at least one month preceding the vote thereon by the electors. The vote on the proposed amendment or amendments shall be on a separate ballot. A proposed amendment shall become effective as the amendment provides if approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.

(c) The General Assembly shall not submit proposed amendments to more than three Articles of the Constitution at any one election. No amendment shall be proposed or submitted under this Section from the time a Convention is called until after the electors have voted on the revision or amendments, if any, proposed by such Convention.

Section 3. Constitutional Initiative for Legislative Article

Amendments to Article IV of this Constitution may be proposed by a petition signed by a number of electors equal in number to at least eight percent of the total votes cast for candidates for Governor in the preceding gubernatorial election. Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV. A petition shall contain the text of the proposed amendment and the date of the general election at which the proposed amendment is to be submitted, shall have been signed by the petitioning electors not more than twenty-four months preceding that general election and shall be filed with the Secretary of State at least six months before that general election. The procedure for determining the validity and sufficiency of a petition shall be provided by law. If the petition is valid and sufficient, the proposed amendment shall be submitted to the electors at that general election and shall become effective if approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the amendment or a majority of those voting in the election.

Section 4. Amendments to the Constitution of the United States

The affirmative vote of three-fifths of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly shall be required to request Congress to call a Federal Constitutional Convention, to ratify a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States, or to call a State Convention to ratify a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The General Assembly shall not take action on any proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States submitted for ratification by legislatures unless a majority of the members of the General Assembly shall have been elected after the proposed amendment has been submitted for ratification. The requirements of this Section shall govern to the extent that they are not inconsistent with requirements by the United States.


Source: Illinois Constitution

Primary Sources
Constitutional Convention Referendum Sources, Illinois General Assembly, Legislative Resources Center.
Secondary Sources
Hilliard, James W. “1970 Illinois Constitution: A Well-Tailored Garment, The.” N. Ill. UL Rev. 30 (2009): 269.

Constitutional Convention Referendum Sources, Illinois General Assembly, Legislative Resources Center.  The contents of this compilation of sources is copied below:


The Legislative Research Unit (LRU) has compiled the documents on this Website to provide information in advance of the constitutional convention referendum to be held at the November 4, 2008 General Election.  This site brings together information on the 1970 constitutional convention and earlier conventions; the last referendum on holding a constitutional convention, in 1988 (which was rejected); and current issues for consideration if a convention were held in 2010.  Many of the resources on this site were not widely available to the general public.

This Website is offered to legislators, their staffs, journalists, advocates on both sides of the convention issue, and members of the general public who seek information on the Illinois Constitution and the issue whether to call a constitutional convention.  Its parts can be reached by clicking on the links shown below.

Part I—History provides information on Illinois’ past constitutional conventions, including the last one in 1969-1970.  It includes the Introduction to the 1970 Illinois Constitution from the Record of Proceedings of that convention, which gave a history of earlier Illinois constitutional conventions.  Part I also contains summaries of research papers prepared before and after the 1970 convention, and related reports by the Legislative Research Unit.

Part II—1988 Referendum describes legislative and other preparations for the first mandatory constitutional convention referendum, in 1988.  It includes information on the Committee of 50 (a group established by the General Assembly in 1986 to advise on whether another convention was necessary).  A list of proponent and opponent groups for a 1990 convention, and a copy of the voter pamphlet on the referendum are also included in Part II.

Part III—Current Issues gives information about the forthcoming 2008 constitutional convention referendum.  It describes legislative actions and provides links to recent articles and other materials on the 2008 referendum.  Proponent and opponent groups are listed, along with topics that a 2010 convention might address.  Part III also contains a list of constitutional revision experts and contact information for them.

Part IV—Other States contains a Legislative Research Unit report on recent constitutional revision efforts in other states, using either automatic referenda or other means.

Part V—Bibliography provides a supplemental bibliography of printed sources on constitutional revision in Illinois.

Part I—history

History of Past Constitutional Conventions
Illinois’ 1970 constitutional convention was its sixth convention, and its first since the unsuccessful convention in 1920-1922.  This introduction to the 1970 Illinois Constitution, from the Record of Proceedings of the 1970 convention, gives a history of past constitutional conventions and attempts to call conventions in Illinois.  It also summarizes major changes proposed and made by each convention.

Preparations for 1970 Constitutional Convention
This 1972 report by the Illinois Legislative Council (the predecessor to the Legislative Research Unit) describes preparations for the 1970 constitutional convention, including information on the campaign to call a convention; election of delegates; and efforts of study commissions and staff of the convention.
Illinois Legislative Council, “Calling and Holding Illinois’ Sixth Constitutional Convention” (File 7-803, Feb. 23, 1972).

Chronology of 1970 Constitutional Convention
Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation, “Chronology of Events Surrounding the 1970 Constitutional Convention,” Intergovernmental Issues (April 1988) p. 4.

CONstitutional CONcepts
The Illinois Constitutional Research Committee was appointed by Governor Richard B. Ogilvie to prepare background research for convention delegates.  Below is a series of short summaries of scholarly research papers on constitutional issues prepared by the Committee before the 1970 convention.  In general, they comment on deficiencies of the 1870 Constitution then in effect.

Robert W. Bergstrom considered how difficult it should be to amend a state constitution, and wrote about how other states amend their constitutions.
“Self Renewal:  The Amending Process in State Constitutions”

Robert W. Bergstrom suggested what kinds of provisions ought to be in each article of a new Illinois Constitution.
“The New Illinois Constitution—What Should it Contain?”

Frank P. Grad examined whether Illinois needed a Bill of Rights, and whether a constitution should guarantee workers a right to organize.
“The State Bill of Rights”

Lucius J. Barker and Twiley W. Barker, Jr. wrote about what is meant by the term “civil rights,” and whether the state needed to include civil rights provisions in its Constitution in addition to guarantees of civil rights in the U.S. Constitution.
“The Guarantee of Civil Rights”

William Goodman considered whether residency requirements to vote were too restrictive; whether a constitution should prescribe election procedures; whether voters should have initiative and referendum rights; and whether state elections should be held apart from federal elections.

David Kenney considered whether the Illinois General Assembly should be a bicameral body; how many members it should have and what their terms should be; whether cumulative voting in the House of Representatives should be retained; and how the problem of drawing legislative districts should be solved.
“Representation in the General Assembly”

Samuel K. Gove and Richard J. Carlson examined whether special and local laws should be prohibited, and whether the Constitution should prescribe legislative procedures.
“The Legislature and the Illinois Constitution”

Alice L. Ebel examined whether the state needed “home rule” for local governments, and whether the organization of local governments in Illinois could meet future needs.
“Downstate Local Government”

Glenn W. Fisher considered whether taxes should be earmarked for specific purposes; whether the Constitution should restrict legislative taxing powers; and what revenue proposals would likely be presented at the Convention.
“Taxation and the Constitutional Convention”

Orville Alexander discussed whether the state should provide for public schools in its Constitution; whether a state board or an elected state officer should oversee public schools; and whether the Constitution should prohibit state aid to private schools.
“Education and the Constitution”

David S. Ruder considered whether the 1870 Illinois Constitution had discouraged corporations from locating in Illinois; whether the legislature should be prohibited from enacting special laws for corporations; and whether business regulation belonged in a Constitution.
“Legislating by the Constitution:  Corporations”

Irving Gordon and Edmund W. Kitch explained why the 1870 Illinois Constitution had sections on warehouses, banks, and railroads, and why such provisions were no longer necessary.
“Legislating By the Constitution:  Banking and Transportation”

Studies in Illinois Constitution Making
The Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois authorized a series of monographs, Studies in Illinois Constitution Making, which examine the convention and deal with some questions about state constitutional revision.  Its primary goal was “to recount—in breadth and detail—the events, personalities, strategies, conflicts, and resolutions which resulted in a new basic law for Illinois.”  The monographs, which are book-length studies, are available through interlibrary loan from many Illinois university and college libraries.

  • Janet Cornelius, Constitution Making in Illinois, 1818-1970 (1972).
    Cornelius updated her A History of Constitution Making in Illinois, which she had prepared for the Constitution Study Commission before the convention.  That publication was also used by delegates to the convention. In Constitution Making in Illinois, she discussed the convention’s relationship to previous constitutional revision to show the parallels and contrasts in Illinois constitution making since statehood.
  • Elmer Gertz, For the First Hours of Tomorrow:  The New Illinois Bill of Rights (1972).
    Gertz, chairman of the Bill of Rights Committee of the convention, gave descriptions of his fellow Committee members and what issues were most important to them.  He also summarized the work of the Committee, majority and minority opinions of the issues, and debate of proposed sections at the convention.
  • Ian D. Burman, Lobbying at the Illinois Constitutional Convention (1973).
    Burman discussed the role lobbyists played at the convention, what factors seemed to stimulate or discourage their participation, and what strategies they tried to use to influence delegates.  He interviewed almost 90 lobbyists, delegates, and legislators both before and after the convention.
  • Rubin G. Cohn, To Judge with Justice:  History and Politics of Illinois Judicial Reform (1973).
    Cohn, staff counsel for the convention’s Judiciary Committee, gave a history of the pre-convention Illinois judicial system, and described Committee members and their work.
  • Alan S. Gratch and Virginia H. Ubik, Ballots for Change:  New Suffrage and Amending Articles for Illinois (1973).
    Gratch and Ubik, staff to the Committee on Suffrage and Constitution Amending, examined the Committee’s deliberations and decision-making process.  For insight into the motivations of Committee members, they sent a questionnaire to each.  They asked members about their decisions to run to become a delegate, their political allegiance, their preference to work on the Committee, and their political aspirations.  They also described the Committee’s successes and failures, and lessons learned from their experience.
  • Joyce D. Fishbane and Glenn W. Fisher, Politics of the Purse:  Revenue and Finance in the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention (1974).
    Fishbane and Fisher, who both worked for the Committee on Revenue and Finance, described the process by which the convention wrote the revenue and finance articles of the Constitution.  They provided insight to the political decision-making process by describing delegates’ goals and the some aspects of the process itself.
  • Jane Galloway Buresh, A Fundamental Goal:  Education for the People of Illinois (1975).
    Buresh, administrative assistant to the Education Committee, described her observations of the Committee’s work.  Her research included interviews with Committee members, during which she asked questions about their backgrounds, the influence of witnesses and lobbyists, and whether their positions on education issues had been changed by the convention.
  • David Kenney, Jack R. Van Der Slik, and Samuel J. Pernacciaro, Roll Call!  Patterns of Voting in the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention (1975).
    The authors described and interpreted the voting behavior of convention delegates in an effort to correlate specific constituency and delegate characteristics with patterns of voting.
  • Joanna M. Watson, Electing a Constitution:  The Illinois Citizen and the 1970 Constitution (1980).
    Watson worked as a journalist and part time staff of the Local Government Committee.  She described the campaigns for the convention, convention delegates, and ratification of the Constitution.  She also analyzed voting patterns on the ratification question.

Resolutions to Amend the 1970 Constitution
As of April 18, 2008, a total of 889 resolutions had been introduced in the General Assembly proposing to amend the Illinois Constitution of 1970.  Only 16 have been presented to the voters, of which nine have been approved.
Legislative Research Unit, “Legislative Resolutions to Amend the Illinois Constitution of 1970” (File 11-077, May 1, 2008).

Reasons for 20-year Referenda
This LRU Research Response describes debates of delegates at the 1970 constitutional convention on the issue of the 20-year referenda on calling a constitutional convention.
Legislative Research Unit, “Reasons for 1970 Constitution’s Provisions for 20-Year Referenda on Holding a Constitutional Convention” (File 11-075, April 24, 2008).

List of Registered Lobbyists from the 1970 Constitutional Convention

Proceedings of the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention
The over 8,000 pages of the 1970 convention’s transcripts can be downloaded to a Macintosh or PC-compatible computer and searched by several methods.  To download, click here (174 MB).

Part II—1988 Referendum

Legislative Efforts Before 1988 Convention Referendum

In 1986 the General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 101.  Among other things, it directed the Joint Committee on Legislative Support Services to convene a “Committee of 50 to Reexamine the Illinois Constitution.”  It provided that the Committee would be a voluntary organization consisting of the Governor, the President of the 1970 convention, scholars, educators, government officials, legal experts, and public opinion leaders.  The Committee was directed to reconvene all available members of the 1970 convention to assess how well the 1970 Constitution secured the rights and welfare of Illinoisans.  Senator Philip J. Rock, who sponsored the resolution in the Senate, stated on the floor that the Committee would lay some of the groundwork for examining whether to call a constitutional convention.

The Committee, along with the Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation (ICIC), in September 1987 held a two-day meeting of 63 surviving delegates to the 1970 convention.  (ICIC was abolished in 2003 and all its duties were assigned to the LRU.)  The delegates were divided into four groups to discuss five topics:  (1) state-local relations and finance; (2) the judiciary; (3) individual rights; (4) legislative-executive relations; and (5) improving government.  Their discussions were facilitated and recorded by volunteer faculty members of Sangamon State and Southern Illinois Universities; 24 members of the Committee of 50 attended as observers.  The group discussed ways in which the Constitution was working as intended, and how it could be improved.  Overall, the former delegates did not believe that a constitutional convention in 1990 was necessary.  They adopted a resolution stating:

We are generally well pleased with the product of our labors of 1969-1970 and believe that such changes as may be desirable can be handled by legislation, interpretation, or the amendment process.

In February 1988, Senator Dawn Clark Netsch introduced Senate Bill 1655 (Netsch et al.—Madigan-Cullerton-Flowers-Williams), which became law in June 1988 (Public Act 85-1022).  It directs the General Assembly, when the question whether a convention should be called is required to be submitted to voters, to prepare a voter pamphlet containing a brief explanation of the call; a brief argument in favor of the call; and a form in which the call will appear on a separate ballot.  Legislators opposing the calling of a convention (or if none oppose it, anyone designated by the General Assembly) must prepare a brief argument against the call.

These statements, and the form in which the call will appear, are to be filed with the Secretary of State at least 1 month before the general election at which the question of calling a convention will be submitted to the voters.  The Secretary of State must publish the question in at least one newspaper in each county; at least two newspapers in any county with more than one newspaper; and at least six newspapers in any county of at least 1 million.  The Secretary of State must also mail a pamphlet containing the statements and form to each mailing address in the state.

In May 1988, Senator Netsch introduced Senate Joint Resolution 127 (Netsch—Cullerton).  As amended by Senate Amendment 2 (Senate Executive Committee), it called for creation of a Joint Committee for the Constitutional Convention Proposal.  The resolution was adopted by the Senate in May, and by the House in June.  The Joint Committee consisted of eight legislators—two appointed by each of the four legislative leaders.  It was to “direct the preparation” of the voter guide required by Public Act 85-1022.  The resolution required the Joint Committee to file a report containing the text of the voter pamphlet with the General Assembly by June 24, 1988.  It also called on the General Assembly to adopt the report by majority vote and certify it to the Secretary of State.

On June 30, 1988 Senator Netsch introduced Senate Joint Resolution 161 proposing to adopt the report of the Joint Committee for the Constitutional Convention Proposal.  The resolution was adopted July 1, 1988.  It contains the text for the voter pamphlet.  Its four arguments in favor of holding a convention were:

(1) A convention could address important issues, including constitutional changes that have been proposed but not approved by the General Assembly.

(2) A convention would not necessarily revise the entire Constitution.

(3) Periodic review of the Constitution is desirable.

(4) The costs of a convention could be held to about $5 million.

Arguments against holding a convention were:

(1) The current Constitution is sound, and revision can be accomplished through the amendment process.  Also, many issues raised by supporters of a convention are legislative, not constitutional.

(2) The number and type of issues raised at a convention cannot be limited.

(3) The cost of a convention could be $31 million.

(4) A convention could destabilize the state economy, especially if the tax limitation provisions in the Constitution are altered.

Cost Estimate for Possible 1990 Convention
ICIC was designated to provide staff support to the Committee of 50.  The April 1988 edition of its publication, Intergovernmental Issues, included an article estimating costs of a 1990 constitutional convention.

The ICIC staff estimated costs of a 1990 convention by applying an average annual inflation rate of 7% to the actual costs of the 1970 convention.  ICIC assumed that a 1990 convention would follow procedures like those of the 1970 convention, rather than predicting that a new convention would not be as long as the 1970 one because the entire Constitution would not be rewritten.

Scholarly Background Papers Commissioned for the Committee of 50 by ICIC

  • John M. Garvey examined additions to the Bill of Rights in the 1970 Illinois Constitution, and argued that the following issues would likely be debated if a constitutional convention were held in 1990:  the death penalty; the right to keep and bear arms; abortion; a guarantee of a healthful environment; and a guarantee against invasions of privacy (in the context of arguments about mandatory drug and HIV testing at the time).
    “The Bill of Rights of the 1970 Illinois Constitution”
  • Paul M. Green summarized legislative redistricting before and after the 1970 Illinois Constitution, and important U.S. court cases and laws on redistricting after approval of the 1970 Constitution.
    “Legislative Redistricting in Illinois:  An Historical Analysis”
  • Jack Van Der Slik described provisions of the Legislative Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution, and argued that the following issues would likely arise if another constitutional convention were held:  the Governor’s veto powers, especially the amendatory veto; the length of terms of House members; and possible extension of the initiative and referendum powers to authorize amendments to other articles besides the Legislative Article of the Constitution.“The Legislative Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution”
  • William R. Monat described major changes in the 1970 Illinois Constitution’s Executive Article, including having candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor run on the same ticket; an elected Comptroller replaced the elected Auditor of Public Accounts; and ceasing to choose the Superintendent of Public Instruction by election.  He argued that the Governor’s amendatory veto power would be the provision most likely to be criticized at a constitutional convention.

    “The Executive Article of the 1970 Constitution”

  • Nancy Ford examined judicial reform issues at the 1970 constitutional convention, including “merit” selection of judges, judicial retention, and discipline of judges.  She argued that a constitutional convention would be unlikely to change selection methods of judges because there was not enough voter support for “merit” selection.

    “The Judicial Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution”

  • James M. Banovetz and Ann M. Elder analyzed Illinois’ home rule system and issues that might come before a convention—including strengthening or abolishing home rule, and requiring the state to reimburse local governments for state mandates that were not requested by local governments.

    “The Local Government Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution”

  • J. Fred Giertz described the most important features of Illinois’ administration of its public finances.  He also argued that the issue of reimbursing local governments for state mandates might well be a subject of a convention.

    “The Public Finance Articles of the 1970 Illinois Constitution”

  • Donald Sevener compared the Education articles of the 1870 and 1970 Illinois Constitutions, and suggested that the following issues might arise during debates of a 1990 convention:  whether the State Board of Education should be elected or appointed; whether the Constitution should address higher education issues; whether a single board of education should oversee the entire education system from primary through higher education; what responsibilities the state has to vocational, older, or other nontraditional students; and whether the Constitution should require the state to pay a specific percentage of the cost of public education.

    “The Education Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution”


    Comments on the 1988 Referendum by 1970 Convention Delegates
    This document is a summary of the meeting of over 60 delegates to the 1970 constitutional convention.  Former delegates discussed issues identified in the background papers described above.  They concluded that a convention was not necessary.  The report lists participants, participating members of the Committee of 50, and staff members.
    Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation, “The 1970 Illinois Constitution:  An Assessment by the Delegates” (1987).Public Hearings of Committee of 50
    The Committee of 50 also held nine public hearings from March to June 1988 at the following locations:

    city date
    Chicago March 31
    Peoria April 19
    Urbana April 26
    Carbondale May 5
    Chicago May 12
    Wheaton May 12
    Springfield May 19
    Rockford May 26
    Collinsville June 3

    The Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation (ICIC) wrote summaries of oral testimony taken at each meeting.

    Committee of 50 Directory

    Committee of 50 Votes

    1988 Voter Pamphlet Explaining Arguments For and Against a Constitutional Convention

    Referendum Results
    The question whether to call a constitutional convention was on the general election ballot in 1988.  To be approved, it needed either a three-fifths affirmative vote of those voting on that question, or a majority of those voting at the election.  The question lost by a vote of 900,109 (24.8%) for and 2,727,144 (75.2%) against.  Among almost 4.7 million votes in the election, 58% were voted against the question.  Almost 23% of voters at the election did not vote on this question.

    Referendum Results by County
    This document shows county vote totals on the referendum.  Its percentage vote is based on those who voted on the question.

    1988 Proponents and Opponents of a 1990 Constitutional Convention

    Part III—Current Issues

    Legislative Efforts
    Article 14 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution requires that the question whether to call a constitutional convention be submitted to the voters 20 years after the last time such a question was submitted to the voters.  The last time the question was put to voters was at the 1988 general election, so the question must be put to voters at the November 4, 2008 general election.

    In March 2008, House Joint Resolution 111 (Fritchey-Froehlich-Fortner et al.—Harmon-Hunter-Sandoval) created a Joint Committee for the Constitutional Convention Proposal.  The Committee, consisting of two members each appointed by the four legislative leaders, was to prepare voter education materials relating to the question of calling a constitutional convention.  The Committee was required to prepare a brief explanation of the question of calling a convention; brief arguments for and against a call; and the form in which the question will appear on its separate ballot at the election.

    House Joint Resolution 137 (Fritchey-Lang-Fortner-Froehlich—Raoul), adopting the Committee’s report, was approved by both houses on May 31, 2008.  Arguments in favor of holding a convention are:

    (1)  a convention could address important issues that have failed to advance in the legislative process;

    (2)  delegates to a convention could propose ideas to consolidate state and local government units;

    (3)  voters should have the opportunity to review the Constitution every 20 years; and

    (4)  voters will have the opportunity to vote on any proposed amendments, countering the influence of special interest groups and lobbyists.

    Arguments against holding a convention are:

    (1)  convention expenses could be high, with estimates as high as $78 million;

    (2)  the Constitution can be amended without holding a convention;

    (3)  special interest groups and lobbyists could influence delegates, and a convention could be dominated by current controversial issues; and

    (4)  a convention could negatively impact the state’s economy, by worrying business leaders about changes in the tax structure.

    House Bill 5701 (Hannig-Ford-M.Davis-Turner—Trotter-J.Collins-Martinez-Hunter-Schoenberg), as amended by Senate Amendment 2 (Trotter), appropriates $4 million to the Secretary of State for printing and mailing the voter pamphlet.

    The Secretary of State began distributing the Con-Con voter education materials (voter pamphlet) in mid-September 2008.  English versions of the pamplhlet were sent to most voters.  Spanish and Chinese versions were sent to selected language-defined minority areas.  A Polish version is available on-line.  All versions of the pamphlet can be viewed and/or downloaded here.  The pamphlet will also be made available at public libraries.

    House Resolution 25 (Fritchey-Joyce-Froehlich-W.Black-Fortner et al.), adopted in June 2007, urged the support of voters on the question whether to call a constitutional convention.

    If voters do approve a call for a constitutional convention, the General Assembly, at the next legislative session, must provide for electing two delegates from each legislative (Senate) district.  Qualifications to be a delegate are the same as those to be a legislator.  The General Assembly is also to designate the time and place of the convention’s first meeting, which must be within 3 months after the election of delegates.  Election of delegates apparently could occur on either regular or special election dates as determined by the General Assembly.

    Estimate of Costs for a 2010 Constitutional Convention
    This LRU Research Response projects possible costs of a future constitutional convention.  It suggests possible schedules for delegate nomination and election; holding the convention; and voting on any constitutional amendments proposed by a convention.
    Legislative Research Unit, “Costs of Holding a 2010 Constitutional Convention” (File 11-076, April 9, 2008)

    Recent Articles and Reports
    In the final chapter of “The Illinois Report 2008” (entitled “Is There a Con-Con in Illinois’ Future?”), James D. Nowlan, Samuel K. Gove, and Richard J. Winkel offer arguments for and against holding a constitutional convention.  They express concern that holding a convention during this “period of anger toward the present political climate could result in a document filled with popular items . . .” that might not serve the state well in the future.

    See IGPA, “Is There a Con-Con in Illinois’ Future?,” The Illinois Report 2008.
    (Linked with permission.  Copyright © 2008 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.  “The Illinois Report 2008” is produced by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois; Robert F. Rich, Director.  Opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily those of the Institute or the University.)

    In early 2008, IGPA conducted a poll asking Illinois residents about support for a constitutional convention, recall, and term limits.  The poll found that 39% of respondents supported holding a constitutional convention, 18% were opposed, and 43% were undecided.  Full results of the poll can be found here.

    The Illinois Business Roundtable, in its “Illinois’ Proposed Constitutional Convention:  A Context for the 2008 Constitutional Convention Call’ (February 2008), recommends that voters reject a constitutional convention.  The report, provided here with permission, describes previous Illinois conventions and constitutional convention provisions in other states.  It also describes how the Illinois Constitution can be changed through the legislative amendment and citizen initiative processes, and other states’ provisions on those processes.  Finally, it addresses some issues that supporters of a convention think could be resolved at a convention.

    The Civic Federation, in its “State of Illinois Constitutional Convention Fiscal Issues” (April 2008), provides an overview of some state and local fiscal issues that could be considered by a constitutional convention, and some possible reforms.  Proposals, which do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Civic Federation, include imposing a legislative supermajority requirement for budget approval; limiting tax and spending increases; changing the state income tax structure; and eliminating the constitutional guarantee for public pensions.

    In “Con-Con revisited,” a November 2007 article in Illinois Issues (online edition), Pat Guinane discusses whether the current political climate is suitable for writing a new constitution.  He describes interest groups’ opinions on whether a convention is needed.

    In an Illinois Issues (online edition) article from December 2007, “Wayne Whalen on Con-Con,” Bethany Jaeger posts the results of her interview with Wayne Whalen on his thoughts about the differences between conditions before the 1970 convention, and current conditions.  He answered questions about what issues he would expect to be top issues if voters approve a convention.

    Illinois Constitutional Revision Experts

    Samuel K. Gove
    Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    University of Illinois
    1007 W. Nevada Street
    Urbana, Illinois  61801
    (217) 244-4821

    Samuel K. Gove is director emeritus of IGPA.  He is also professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He has been active in constitutional revision efforts in Illinois, including helping to plan and hold the 1970 constitutional convention, and serving on the Committee of 50 to Re-examine the Illinois Constitution in 1987.

    Ann Lousin
    The John Marshall Law School
    315 South Plymouth Court
    Chicago, Illinois  60604
    (312) 987-1434

    Ann Lousin is a professor at the John Marshall Law School.  She was a research assistant to the 1970 constitutional convention, where she helped in drafting the 1970 Illinois Constitution.  She has lectured and written on the Illinois Constitution and the question whether a constitutional convention should be held.  She is also the author of the bibliography in Part V.

    Dawn Clark Netsch
    Northwestern University School of Law
    357 East Chicago Avenue
    Chicago, Illinois  60601
    (312) 503-8535 (phone)
    (312) 503-2035 (fax)

    Dawn Clark Netsch is a professor emeritus of law at Northwestern University.  She served as a delegate to the 1970 constitutional convention, was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1973, and was State Comptroller from 1991 to 1995.

    James D. Nowlan
    Institute of Government and Public Affairs
    1007 W. Nevada
    Urbana, Illinois  61801
    (312) 333-3340

    Professor Nowlan is a senior fellow at IGPA and an adjunct professor of public policy at Knox College.  He was a state legislator during the time of the 1970 constitutional convention, and served on the House Constitutional Implementation Committee after the convention.

    Kent Redfield
    Professor of Political Science
    University of Illinois at Springfield
    PAC 484, UIS
    One University Plaza
    Springfield, IL  62703 (217) 206-6572

    Dr. Redfield is a professor of Political Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and serves as the interim director for the Institute for Legislative Studies—part of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS.  He is co-author of Lawmaking in Illinois and a contributor to the Almanac of Illinois Politics.  He has presented the results of his research on campaign finance and political ethics in numerous reports and articles, and two books.

    Wayne W. Whalen
    Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP
    333 West Wacker, Room 2100
    Chicago, Illinois  60606
    (312) 407-0600

    Mr. Whalen is a lawyer in Chicago, where he is involved in corporate, financial, and business practice.  He was a delegate to the 1970 constitutional convention, and chaired its Committee on Style, Drafting and Submission.  He was also appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to its Blue Ribbon Committee to review and recommend revision of the Court’s procedures for supervising and disciplining Illinois lawyers.

    Some Current Proponents and Opponents of a 2010 Constitutional Convention

    Possible Topics of a 2010 Constitutional Convention

    Part IV—Other States

    State Constitutional Revision in Recent Decades
    This LRU Research Response describes commissions and other groups that have studied and made recommendations on constitutional revision, and the outcomes of constitutional revision efforts in Illinois and other states.  It gives special attention to the 14 states that have automatic referenda on holding constitutional conventions.
    Legislative Research Unit, “State Constitutional Revision in Recent Decades” (File 11-071, April 17, 2008).

    Part V—Bibliography

    This bibliography contains selected citations from Professor Ann Lousin’s original bibliography, “The 1970 Illinois Constitution: The First Two Decades,” which was published in the Northern Illinois University Law Review, vol. 8, p. 845 (spring 1988).  Provided with permission.  These citations include books, articles, and Attorney General’s Opinions related to the 1968 call for a constitutional convention.

    One particularly useful reference is George D. Braden and Ruben G. Cohn, The Illinois Constitution:  An Annotated and Comparative Analysis (University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, 1969), which provided an analysis of each section of the 1870 Constitution to help delegates to the 1970 convention draft a new Constitution.

1988 Election Cycle--News
Klemens, Michael D., Preparing for the next call for a constitutional convention, Legislative Committee of 50, June 6, 1987.  Accompanying documents for the Committee of 50 to Re-Examine the Illinois Constitution:

  1. Constitutional Developments in Illinois by Samuel K. Gove (15 pp.);
  2. “The Bill of Rights of the 1970 Constitution” by John M. Garvey (7 pp.);
  3. “The Suffrage, Elections and Constitutional Revision Articles” by John Jackson (11 pp.);
  4. “The Executive Article” by William R. Monat (14 pp.);
  5. “The Legislative Article” by Jack R. Van Der Slik (11 pp.);
  6. “The Judicial Article” by Nancy Ford (12 pp.);
  7. “The Local Government Article” by James M. Banovetz and Ann Elder (13 pp.);
  8. “The Public Finance Article” by J. Fred Giertz (9 pp.);
  9. “The Education Article” by Donald Sevener (12 pp.);
  10. “Legislative Redistricting in Illinois: An Historical Analysis” by Paul M. Green (33 pp.).

Other documents for the Committee of 50.  Included in The 1970 Illinois Constitution in Review: A Symposium on Issues for Change, Northern Illinois University Law Review, Vol. 8, no. 3 (1988), Swen Parson Hall 175, DeKalb 60115:

  1. “The 1970 Illinois Constitution: Has It Made A Difference?” by Ann Lousin (this is the same essay below);
  2. “The Power of State Constitutions in Protecting Individual Rights” by the California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk;
  3. “From Judicial Election to Merit Selection: A Time for Change in Illinois” by Nancy Ford;
  4. “Illinois Home Rule and Taxation: A new Approach to Local Government Enabling Authority” by James Banovetz and Thomas Kelty;
  5. “The Education Article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution: Selected Policy Issues for Consideration and Debate at the Next Constitutional Convention” by B. Douglas Anderson;
  6. “Reconsidering the Amendatory Veto for Illinois” by Jack R. Van Der Slik;
  7. “A Search for Accountability: Judicial Discipline Under the Judicial Article of the 1970 Illinois State Constitution” by Pinky Wassenberg;
  8. “Limits on State Taxation and Spending: Implications for the Illinois Constitutional Convention Referendum” by J. Fred Giertz and David L. Chicoine;
  9. “Increased and Accessible Illinois Judicial Rulemaking” by Jeffrey A. Parness and Bruce Elliot Keller.


The 1970 Illinois Constitution: Has It Made a Difference? (listed in March 1988), Ann Lousin, professor of law, John Marshall Law School, 315 S. Plymouth Ct., Chicago 60604.  This lengthy (117 pp.) essay describes the Constitution itself, controversies at the 1969-70 convention and points out areas of continuing discussion.

Constitutional Convention Study Guide: Does Illinois Need a New Constitution?, League of Women Voters of Illinois, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60604 (1987), 112 pp., 75 cents/copy.  The guide discusses the various issues that are most likely to be raised if a constitutional convention is held, including sections in the Bill of Rights dealing with discrimination, religious freedom, right to arms and the limitation of penalties after conviction; the governor’s veto power in the Legislative Article; the method by which judges are selected in the Judiciary Article; the home-rule section in Article VII; several aspects of the Education Article and the Revenue Article; and the methods for revising the Constitution contained in Article XIV. In most of these cases the league states its position on the issue and ends by listing five statements in favor and five against holding a convention.

“The Amendatory Veto Revisited: How Far Can the Governor’s Magic Constitutional Pen Reach?” by Kirk W. Dillard in Illinois Bar Journal (July 1988), pp. 598-603.  This article zeroes in on one of the many issues dealt with in the league pamphlet. It suggests several reasons why a governor would want to have the power of an amendatory veto, but it also points out a major problem with this power: Its scope was not well defined. The article discusses both legislative and judicial responses to this problem and concludes that “the Illinois Supreme Court has provided an interpretation of the amendatory veto authority that is judicious and that works.”

2008 Election Cycle--News

Print News

Joravsky, Ben, Con on the con-con, Chicago Reader, November 13, 2008.

Q&A Question & Answer: Constitutional convention, Illinois Issues, October 2008.

Steve Huntley,“Some in Illinois want a new constitutional convention,” Chicago Sun-Times, June 22, 2007.


‘Con-con’ Pros & Cons: The Basics of the Illinois Constitutional Convention Question and Why It’s Important to Kids & Families, Voice for Illinois Children, October 20, 2008.

A Constitutional Convention for Illinois? October 27, 2008 (focuses on the impact on education funding).

James D. Nowlan, Samuel K. Gove and Richard J. Winkel, Is There a Con-Con in Illinois’ Future?, The Illinois Report 2008, Institute of Government & Public Affairs.

Guinane, Pat, “Con-Con Revisited,”Illinois Issues, November 2007.

James D. Nowlan, Ann M. Lousin and Samuel K. Gove, An Illinois Constitution in 2008?,  Report to the Union League Club of Chicago on Con-Con, Union League of Chicago, May 17, 2007.


John Fritchey, “In My View: Time is right to hold a ‘Con-Con’,”State Journal-Register, November 10, 2007. Opinion/stories/19797 .asp

TV News

Vote Yes on Illinois Constitutional Convention Rally.


No Campaign


Yes Campaigns


Campaign Finance Reports

Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution: Illinois Sunshine Report, Illinois State Board of Elections Report, National Institute on Money in State Politics Report.

2008 Election Cycle--Pro & Con Videos

Videos–Vote No

The no videos produced by the no campaign were all removed from the web.  The only no video that appears to still be available is the one featuring Governor Edgar.

To Con-Con or not to Con-Con — that’s the question facing Illinois voters in the November 2008 election.  Uploaded on Dec 5, 2007.

Videos–Vote Yes

We think not! There’s no telling how many millions of dollars we, the taxpayers of Illinois, stand to lose if we DON’T change the laws of the constitution.

VOTE YES! for a new Illinois Constitutional Convention. We can’t afford not to.  Uploaded on Oct 26, 2008.

If you’re not happy with the way Springfield does business, Vote Yes on November 4. You won’t get another chance until 2028. (Did you know that the current constitution of Illinois provides no recall to oust bad politicians before their term is up? Isn’t that alone worth having a new constitutional convention?).  Uploaded on Oct 19, 2008.


The Illinois Channel hosted seven debates.  Here is the first one.

From the Illinois Municipal League Annual Conference in Chicago: a panel discusses whether or not it is time to call for a new Illinois Constitutional Convention. This is an issue voters will decide on the November 2008 ballot. This panel discusses what issues would likely be considered by such a convention and who would participate in the rewriting of the state Constitution.  Uploaded on Dec 18, 2007.

Miscellaneous Vote No Media on the Protect the Illinois Constitution Website

Note: Most of the links no longer work.


11.02.08 Dawn Clark Netch and Tim Drea discuss con con
At Issue, WBBM-AM
Listen to the clip
11.02.08 Debate with APIC’s Dawn Clark Netsch against Lt. Gov Pat Quinn
Fox Chicago Sunday, WFLD-TV Fox (Chicago, IL)
View the clip
11.02.08 Debate with APIC’s Dawn Clark Netsch against Lt. Gov Pat Quinn
Eye on Chicago, WBBM-TV CBS (Chicago, IL)
View the clip
11.01.08 Debate with APIC’s Jeff Mays against Bruno Bruno Behrend
Extra Edition, KMOV-TV CBS (St. Louis, MO)
View the clip
10.29.08 Editorial: Convention might not work; price too high: Vote ‘no’
Bloomington Pantagraph, (IL)
Read Article
10.29.08 Defender endorses Obama, others for office
Chicago Defender, (IL)
Read Article
10.28.08 Chicago Tonight
View Clip
10.28.08 Newspapers Across State Urge No Vote
Read Article
10.26.08 Dysfunctional state needs leadership, not a convention
Opinion, Rockford Register- Star
Read Article
10.26.08 Leaders need changing, not the constitution
Opinion, Southern Illinoisan
Read Article
10.25.08 Editorial: Politics, not constitution, state’s problem vote ‘no’
Opinion, Moline Dispatch- Rock Island Argus
Read Article
10.24.08 Interview with Gov. Jim Edgar
WGN-AM: Spike O’Dell Show (aired 7:39-7:47 am)
Listen to Clip
10.20.08 Vote ‘no’ on constitutional convention
Daily Herald
Read Article
10.19.08 Newsviews ABC7 Chicago
Paula Lawson, League of Women Voters of Illinois
View the clip
10.14.08 Illinois Constitutional Convention Debate with Attorney Roland Burris,
As aired on WVON-AM Chicago, 7:00AM
Listen to the Clip
10.06.08 The big con
By Greg Hinz, Crain’s Chicago Business
Read Article
10.03.08 Voice of the People: Change politicians, not the constitution
Chicago Tribune (IL)
Read Article
10.07.08 “Don’t vote for a new constitution” editorial byChicago-Sun-Times
Read Article


2008 Pro & Con Debates

2028 Election Cycle
Snider, J.H., Rauner’s best route may be constitutional convention, State Journal-Register, December 27, 2015.

Marquez, Adrian, Convene a constitutional convention in Illinois to resolve the pension crisis, Chicago Tribune, May 12, 2015.  See also Illinois Scrambles for Solutions to a Mounting Pension Crisis, New York Times.