SPRINGFIELD - Even though Americans overwhelmingly support voter ID laws, and don't believe they discriminate, Illinoisans will be asked on the November ballot whether the Land of Lincoln should ever require that voters prove their identity before they vote.
Voters will be asked whether the State Constitution's Article III, Section 8 should be amended to say:
No person shall be denied the right to register to voter or to cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or income.
The language appears fair and more importantly, non-discriminatory, but when House Speaker Mike Madigan introduced the measure on the House floor for a vote last April, State Rep. David Reis (R-St. Anne) asked the Speaker how it would affect possible voter identification requirements.
Reis told Illinois Review that he asked Madigan: "Would this prevent Illinois from requiring voter I.D.?"
"The Speaker said, yes, that's right, it would prevent voter I.D.," said Reis.
Despite that answer all Democrat and Republican House members voted for the referendum, except for Reis and his Republicans colleagues Jeanne Ives, Tom Morrison, Mike Tryon and Brad Halbrook.
Heritage Foundation's Hans Von Spalovsky told Illinois Review he couldn't understand why the need for the amendment.
"It's already in federal law," Spalovsky said, "It's very strange they would go to all this effort."
Reis said the amendment is more about getting Democrats out to vote than it is about protecting voters' rights.
"The Democrats are using every trick in the book to get voters to the polls in November," Reis told IR.
Still other questions are unanswered about one particular phrase in the amendment, "status as a member of a language minority." Would that mean that it would be unconstitutional for polling places to not offer ballots in every conceivable language, or provide a translator for every language a voter understands?
Von Spalovsky told Illinois Review the phrase raised questions in unknown legal territory.
"Could someone sue the state of Illinois for not providing a translation for their native language? That's entirely possible. It remains to be seen to what extremes this amendment could be taken," said Von Spalovsky.
The amendment will become part of the Constitution if a three-fifths majority of those pulling a November 4th ballot vote for it.
A recent Rasmussen poll showed that 74 percent of Americans believe all voters should have to prove their identities before they cast ballots.