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updated: 10/30/2012 5:00 PM

Rare citizen push gets question on Kane County ballot

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Kane County Chief Deputy Clerk Stan Bond can't confirm that the number of signatures turned in for an advisory referendum was record-breaking, but it is certainly a contender for the title.

"It's exceptional," Bond said.

A group of about 14 Kane County residents spent much of the summer at festivals, outside of libraries and on busy streets collecting signatures to get a question on the Nov. 6 ballot about money in politics. The organizers, loosely connected to the national Move to Amend group, are on a quest to overturn what has become known as the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling. Without a new vote by justices on a different case, the only way to make the change is through a federal constitutional amendment.

Kaye Gamble of Sleepy Hollow was one of the key signature collectors this summer. She said the Supreme Court's decision "allowed the floodgates of money to open up," giving millionaires, corporations, unions and other special interest groups the opportunity to take more control of the political system.

"They essentially pick the candidates and the ordinary citizen is left out of the process," Gamble said.

To get a question on the Kane County ballot, organizers had to collect 12,000 signatures -- a feat they far surpassed, turning in 14,386.

Bond said it is extremely rare for citizen groups to put questions on ballots -- especially at the county level. Residents in the Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District will vote this election on whether the board of trustees for the district should be elected, rather than appointed. Residents collected signatures to get the question on the ballot but needed a tiny fraction of the Move to Amend group's required 12,000.

Whether it's because people don't know they can get a question on the ballot by turning in signatures or they find the process difficult to navigate, Bond said examples of similar initiatives are hard to find.

"To me it's exciting to have citizens use this process," Bond said. "It's a good use of our democratic system."

The Kane County ballot question reads: "Should the United States Constitution be amended to limit the use of corporate, special interest and private money in any political activity, including influencing the election of any candidate for public office/"

If a majority of voters choose "yes," nothing will change automatically, but it will be considered a first step. Move to Amend organizers hope communities across the country support limiting money in politics this election, putting pressure on congressmen to get the wheels turning on the actual amendment.

Voters in the city of Chicago also will see a similar ballot question, as will those in a handful of Illinois townships, including Lisle Township in DuPage County.

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