Endorsement: Why advisory issues don't deserve recommendation

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted10/19/2014 1:01 AM

So-called advisory referendums can have many purposes, and providing advice is rarely one of them. So as a rule, the Daily Herald does not make recommendations in advisory referendums.

They generally have no material effect, and their results are wholly defined by the whim and personal interpretation of political leaders.


In the best of circumstances, they might help give sincere community leaders a gauge of a community's interest in a particular course of action. In Batavia Unit School District 101 this November, for example, school leaders appear earnestly to be trying to take the temperature of local citizens before they develop binding proposals to increase taxes.

But elsewhere, even local initiatives have at best nothing more than symbolic value. The only real question about the separate issues in Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Wood Dale and Itasca wondering whether Congress or the FAA should do more to suppress noise at O'Hare International Airport is by what lopsided -- and impotent -- margin they will pass.

In the worst cases, as especially in the three statewide issues on the November ballot, advisory questions are manipulative, cynical artifices, contrived to reinforce some pre-existing political agenda or, worse still, merely to attract voters with a certain penchant to the polls to pad the voting for a given party's candidates.

These surely are the insidious purposes of a question asking whether millionaires ought to pay a 3 percent tax surcharge, another asking whether the minimum wage should be raised to $10 and a third asking whether health insurance plans in Illinois must cover prescription birth control. These Democratic platform issues are clearly intended to attract party faithful to the polls in a non-presidential election, and their outcomes are all but pre-ordained.

How much chance, for instance, does any of us give that a proposal asking more than 99 percent of the population whether a fraction of a percent of the population should pay more taxes will fail? And, if it does, do we really believe that political leaders will accept the public's verdict? Or will they, as has happened countless times in the past, deftly disregard the results and move ahead with their legislative agendas?

Such insulting adulterations of the electoral process don't deserve an answer from voters. They certainly will get no recommendation from us.

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