SPRINGFIELD – Illinois election officials say the group that wants to impose an eight-year term limit on state legislators appears to have enough petition signatures to let voters decide the issue in November – but the proposed constitutional change campaign led by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner still has several challenges before it's put on the ballot.
State Board of Elections Director Rupert Borgsmiller told The Associated Press on Monday that a preliminary estimate shows the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits has about 370,000 valid signatures after testing a sample of the petitions. Illinois ballot measures need about 300,000 voter signatures to be placed on the ballot.
"This is a major first step in the shake-up process to bring back Illinois," Rauner said at a campaign event in Lisle. "My prediction is as soon as term limits becomes law, I think we'll have a number of members of the Legislature who decide to retire because the game's sort of up."
But it isn't a done deal yet. It faces a legal challenge in Cook County circuit court by allies of longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, and Borgsmiller said the board still needs to make an official decision.
"At this point in time, we're not anticipating doing anything else with this petition with this process," Borgsmiller said, indicating that he assumes the estimates will pass muster of the Board of Elections panel in two weeks.
The measure also needs a favorable vote from either three-fifths of those voting on the proposal, or 50 percent of the total number of votes cast in November's election.
It could potentially be a crowded ballot with as many as seven measures possibly up for consideration, including three other constitutional amendments and three nonbinding, poll-style questions. They're being proposed by both Republicans and Democrats in hopes of boosting voter turnout in one of the nation's most expensive and competitive governor's races.
Rauner is the term limits campaign chairman and the ballot measure could serve as boon to his chances of defeating Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, but he downplayed that on Monday.
"I think voters in both political parties support term limits. I hope they get out there and vote in favor of the term limits drive," Rauner said.
Quinn, who took over for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009 and is seeking his second full term, has said he supports term limits but not other parts of the proposal. It would also change the size of the House and Senate, and make it harder for lawmakers to override a governor's veto.