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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Illinois Supreme Court Finds Term-Limits Referendum Question Invalid

The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued an opinion finding a proposed term limits referendum question invalid. Burns v. Municipal Officers Electoral Board of Village of Elk Grove, 2020 IL 125714.

On July 8, 2019, Burns filed a petition with the village to place a referendum question on the March 17th primary election ballot on whether to impose term limits on the offices of village president and village trustee. An objection was filed arguing that the proposed ballot question was invalid because it would apply to current officers in violation of state statute that provides that any term limit referendum must be prospective only (i.e., apply only to terms in office served after passage of the referendum). The municipal electoral board held a hearing and upheld the objection, striking the referendum question from the ballot. That decision was appealed to the circuit court which reversed, holding that the state statute requiring term limit referendum questions to be prospective was unconstitutional. 

The case made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which upheld the initial decision of the municipal electoral board that the referendum question was invalid because it was inconsistent with state statute. The Court rejected Burns' argument that the terms-limit statute was unconstitutional, finding that the General Assembly has the authority to establish restrictions on term-limits referendum questions. Since the question clearly violated state statute, and that statute was not unconstitutional, the electoral board did not err in finding the question invalid.


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