Changes To The Illinois Constitution On The Ballot

voteYesterday, I received a pamphlet in the mail from the Illinois Secretary of State. It is addressed to “Residential Customer” and titled, “Proposed Amendments and Addition to The Illinois Constitution.” Of course, it captured my attention.

The introduction says,

“At the General Election to be held on the 4th of November, 2014, you will be called upon to adopt or reject the following proposed amendments to the Illinois Constitution. As required by law, I provide you with the following information.”

Wow!  To be fully informed, I read the 6 pages.

There is one proposed Amendment, and an addition to Article III which is titled, “Suffrage and Elections.

After reading the proposed Amendment and addition, I read the sections of arguments against them. Then I went back and read the proposed Amendment and addition again. Then I laughed at the arguments and shook my head.

The proposed Amendment is Crime Victims’ Rights. The Amendment would grant additional rights to crime victim during the pendency of cases and give them a voice during plea agreements and sentencing.

The proposed Amendment would also give victims a right to formal notice and a hearing before the court rules on any request for access to their information which is privileged or confidential.

A statement in favor of the Amendment says that victims should be allowed to object when a defendant or a defendant’s attorney attempts to obtain information about the victim that is confidential or private, such as mental health records and personal journals. A judge will decide if the victim has to turn over what the defendant wants, but the amendment would allow victims to object if he or she feels that a privacy violation would result.

 The arguments against the proposed amendment?

Please, make sure you’re sitting down before reading further.

The arguments against the amendment include that the amendment would disrupt the criminal justice process and impede the work of prosecutors. It alleges that victims and/or their attorneys might try to second-guess prosecutors and object to decisions made by judges.

Do you hear that? Prosecutors, who are elected by the people, are demigods who do not want crime victims second-guessing them.

The arguments against the amendment also include that our system gives criminal defendants the right to access information, documents and records that could prove their innocence and that the amendment would give victims opportunity to prevent disclosure of certain materials or documents that might prove the defendant’s innocence.

HA! Based on what we have experienced with defense attorneys obtaining victims’ materials and documents, they are used in an attempt to put victims on trial, and have absolutely no relevancy to the crime that defendants are accused of committing.

Although it was in Florida and not Illinois, we saw during George Zimmerman’s trial where his attorneys blasted out photos purportedly from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone, from a purportedly “hidden” file in the cell phone that was protected by an unknown password that only a person who disliked State’s Attorney Angela Corey was able to access.

The judge would not allow the photos into evidence. Did that stop Mark O’Mara from posting them on the internet? No. Did the photos prove Zimmerman’s innocence? No. The defense could not even verify that Trayvon had knowledge of the photos, and Zimmerman certainly didn’t see them before or during his pulling of the trigger that sent a hollow-point bullet through Trayvon’s heart. The photos, which under the circumstances of how they were obtained, were apparently intended to be confidential, and not being admissible in court as evidence, were still used by the defense for propaganda purposes.

In the State of Michigan in the Ted Wafer trial, we saw how his defense attorney wanted Renisha McBride’s Facebook to be entered into evidence. Why? To prove his innocence? He never testified that Renisha said a word to him. He did not testify that Renisha made any threatening move. His threat, so he said, was the knocking and banging on his door and window. Wafer knew nothing about Renisha’s personality; nothing about her thoughts, when he killed her. Her Facebook page had nothing to do with the crime that Wafer was charged with, and subsequently convicted of committing.

VOTING-RIGHTS-ACTIllinois wants to protect victims from the humiliations intended to be inflicted on them in court, after they have already been harmed, or killed.   I’m all for the proposed amendment because it gives crime victims the constitutional right to keep their privileged and confidential information from being accessed by defendants who can use them to denigrate, humiliate, cast rumors and taint jury pools.

The additional proposal is very short;

“No person shall be denied the right to register to vote or 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 proposal makes sure that all eligible Illinois citizens have a fundamental right to vote and that regulations seeking to prohibit eligible Illinois citizens from voting in an election should not be tolerated in a civil society.

 The arguments against this? Hold on to your hat. Quote:

“This amendment is not necessary. Many of these protections are already provided by federal law. The proponents have not identified any instances of voter discrimination in Illinois that would justify the creation of a State cause of action. The proposed amendment will only serve to increase litigation.”

That is what is called circular reasoning. In a nutshell, the opposition says that people denied to register to vote due to discrimination, should go to the federal court rather than the state court because their voting protections are under federal law.

How often have we read about states, cities, and counties passing laws and ordinances that prevent people from registering to vote? Sure, the people can contact an organization, and the organization can rally their attorneys to file a cause of action in the federal court to argue the unconstitutionality of state voting rights. Then those same people who are in opposition belly ache about the federal government stepping on state rights.  It would be good to put it in the state’s constitution.

I am voting for the proposed addition.

Now, I say it’s time for our legislature in the U.S. Congress to introduce amendments and additions to our U.S. Constitution to bring it into 21st century language, and the protect the rights of all citizens and future citizens. We don’t need to return to the Wild, Wild, West, and we don’t need local law enforcement using military tools on citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights. Maybe if local law enforcement spent more time learning how to communicate with all citizens, and less time training on the use of military weapons, more citizens would feel safer and not own arsenals.

Posted on 10/07/2014, in Potpourri, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. yahtzeebutterfly

    Excellent amendments!

    Like

  2. That anyone would object to these is absurd!! We ALL must vote this year. Thanks for sharing this Xena!

    Like

    • Mindyme,
      Yes. The objections are absurd. I can’t say for sure, but observing the vast differences in plea agreements and sentencing in this state when the same crime has been committed, is probably why there was an objection on behalf of prosecutors. Legislatures have decided to try and fix those discriminatory practices by allowing victims to have input in those decisions. For example, a White father whose teen was killed by Whites has to live with the perpetrators only getting 5 years in prison due to a plea deal for manslaughter. I am sure that he would like to see the murderers sit in prison for the rest of their lives.

      And of course, allowing victims to have a say about their private documents is a fantastic measure. I have no idea whey anyone advocating on behalf of prosecutors would allege that such information might prove the innocence of those charged, since prosecutors are suppose to prosecute and not act as defense lawyers.

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      • Even in Arabic countries the victims and families of victims have a say in punishments.

        I had not thought of that perspective: “For example, a White father whose teen was killed by Whites has to live with the perpetrators only getting 5 years in prison due to a plea deal for manslaughter. I am sure that he would like to see the murderers sit in prison for the rest of their lives.”

        Excellent point, and so sadly, true..

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        • Mindyme,

          I had not thought of that perspective:

          It’s unfair justice for victims and their families. Some prosecutors plea with Whites charged with crimes and victims or deceased victims’ families have no input or say about it. It’s in and out of prison for the convicted. For the same crimes committed by Blacks, prosecutors seek and obtain 40 to life sentences. The victims or deceased victims’ families have no input or say about it, but the difference is profound! It’s time to allow all victims and the families of deceased victims have a say in the pleas and sentencing. If judges hearing them are fair, then it’s only victims who can make the sentencing fair.

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  3. Annie Cabani

    Wow, Xena! Illinois wants to PROTECT peoples’ rights? That is so way cool!

    It’s like we live on different planets. Down here in NC, we’re just trying to shift our course back from reverse to forward again – even if just at 1st or 2nd gear speeds (hey, we don’t expect miracles!).

    I’ve been giddy with delight simply because NC’s two-year-old state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality is now UNconstitutional! (Of course, that’s not due to any state action here. Thanks go to the 4th Circuit federal court of appeals, for its ruling on Virginia’s virtually identical constitutional amendment and statute – a ruling that the SCOTUS declined to review a couple of days ago.)

    Not exactly forward movement, but it’s at least a baby step towards undoing the massive regression imposed by the Neanderthals who have gained control of our state government over the past four years.

    I can only DREAM of voting on a state constitutional amendment that enhances citizens’ rights. So I salute the State of Illinois!

    Like

    • Annie,
      Yes! Amending the State’s constitution is a big step and I do hope that the amendments pass. Here’s wishing the people of the State of NC the best. Marriage equally is going to be nationwide so NC should stop kicking the bricks and get with the program.

      Like

  4. Annie Cabani

    Off topic, but…. I saw this Daily Show segment last night, and I think you all will enjoy it – whether or not you’re a fan of Jon Stewart’s show. Stick with the video. There’s general silliness at the beginning, but the important part starts at about 1:30 into it.

    As background: Jon Stewart was sick last night, so one of his “correspondents,” Jason Jones, was substituting. The video begins with Jason’s wife, Samantha Bee (also a Stewart “correspondent”) complaining that SHE was supposed to be the substitute. That’s the lead-in to Samantha Bee’s “report” (and you won’t “get” some of it because references are made to the preceding segment).

    The part everyone will enjoy (I predict) is Samantha Bee’s “report, ”which starts at about 1:30. Here’s the link:

    http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/v4l2pe/a-shot-in-the-dark

    Like

    • Love this, thanks Annie, I’ve always known/thought there was no national database on police shootings/abuse.

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