CHICAGO – Illinois voters overwhelmingly approved two constitutional amendments, ensuring that voters aren't illegally discouraged from casting ballots and establishing regulations to give crime victims a larger role in prosecutions.
More than 3 million people cast ballots Tuesday to amend the state constitution on the two issues, and large majorities also expressed support for increasing the minimum wage, hitting millionaires with an income tax surcharge to pay for schools and requiring in-state insurance plans to cover birth control.
The voters' rights amendment was a Democratic response to Republican-led actions in three dozen states to require voters to show proof of identification. The amendment bars attempting to disenfranchise anyone on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other grounds.
The second constitutional amendment aims to ensure that victims receive necessary information about court proceedings, including hearings and plea negotiations. It would make sure victims know how to seek restitution and stay safe around alleged perpetrators.
Patterned on California's 2008 proposition called "Marsy's Law," it had the backing of Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
The other ballot questions were advisory, so the results carry no weight in terms of lawmaking in the state Capitol.
Voters supported raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour from $8.25 by 2015.
The minimum wage issue became a flashpoint in the gubernatorial election. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn favored increasing it. GOP challenger Bruce Rauner, who initially supported cutting it, also favored it, but with other changes in the law favorable to businesses.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, tried to pass the so-called millionaires tax as a law in the General Assembly's spring session, but couldn't get enough support. The idea, which had the support of 64 percent of voters, would be to tack on a 3 percent surcharge on any taxpayer whose adjusted gross income topped $1 million.
The Internal Revenue Service indicates that Illinois had more than 14,500 households with income at that level in 2011, meaning such a surcharge would bring in $1 billion a year for public schools.
The contraceptive-coverage question, which had 66 percent approval, responded to the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling that craft-store chain Hobby Lobby is not required to pay for birth control. Advocates for coverage say the decree guts Illinois' 2003 law requiring it.