Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn urged Evanston residents Wednesday night to adopt a voter initiative process for enacting city ordinances.

Speaking at a forum organized by City Clerk Devon Reid, Quinn outlined a process by which petitioners who gathered 2,800 signatures — eight percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election — could place a referendum on the ballot to adopt the initiative plan.

About two dozen people, several of them veterans of the recent advisory referendum petition drive on the Harley Clarke mansion, turned out for the session in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center.

Reid distributed sample language for the voter initiative petition, which outlined the following process by which voters could subsequently put proposed ordinances on the ballot:

  1. If 25 or more registered voters requested a vote on an ordinance, the city clerk would draft language for the ordinance.
  2. The residents would then collect petition signatures using the clerk’s proposed language.
  3. If the residents collected sufficient signatures, a minimum of 8 percent of the votes cast in Evanston in the last gubernatorial election, the city clerk would submit the ordinance for consideration by the City Council.
  4. If the City Council failed to adopt the ordinance within 70 days, the city clerk would cause the proposal to be placed on the ballot at the next regularly scheduled election.
  5. If the ordinance was approved by voters at the referendum, the ordinance would go into effect, unless the City Council adopted a resolution disapproving it within 30 days after the election.

It was not clear from the description what would happen if the City Council adopted an amended version of the ordinance before the referendum, or if the Council were to amend or repeal the ordinance after the 30-day-post-election review period.

Quinn, who served as governor from 2009 to 2015, currently is involved in a petition drive to impose term limits on the mayor of Chicago. He says a hearing on that effort is scheduled for a week from today.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Is this necessary?

    I’m not sure why we need this proposal because we already have a representative democracy.  That is, we have elected a mayor and alderpersons who presumably represent the will of the people.  If they don’t perform to our satisfaction then we can always replace them at the next election.  

  2. California proposition system

    The system in California which puts propostions on the ballot demonstrates the downsides of this idea.

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