Illinoisans would enjoy new levels of government transparency within the voting process through legislation recently filed by State Representative Tom Demmer (R-Dixon).
HB 2726 would create the Taxpayer Advocate and Empowerment Act, and through the office of an appointed Taxpayer Advocate, Illinoisans could access an online, comprehensive, easy-to-use database to obtain complete descriptions of ballot questions that will come before them. “This platform goes well beyond what is currently provided by sites that simply show voters what races and issues will appear on their ballot,” said Demmer. “Our democracy works best when voters are informed about the initiatives they’re voting on, and this database would empower them by providing explanations of what is being asked and details of how its approval would impact taxpayers. The database would be searchable by address, so residents could pull up information about every issue down to their specific precinct.”
Demmer continued, “With more than 8,000 individual units of government, it is not uncommon for a taxpayer to have more than 10 different taxing districts listed on their tax bill. As an election draws near, Illinoisans are left with the almost impossible task of finding the information they need from several different web sites or publications. My legislation allows Illinois residents to take control of their democratic and legislative process by removing barriers that inhibit their ability to become fully informed voters. The Office of the Taxpayer Advocate would provide Illinoisans with a comprehensive summary of information related to ballot proposals, including details that are too often purposely or inadvertently left out of the discussion.”
Through HB 2726, the Taxpayer Advocate would be appointed to an eight-year term through a joint resolution approved by a three-fifths majority of the House and Senate. That individual could hire two Deputy Taxpayer Advocates, and the office would establish a comprehensive web site, which includes the following:
- a list of every item, either in the form of an individual candidate or question, that will be printed on the ballot for the next immediate election
- a description of each office up for election on the ballot that contains any relevant data necessary for the taxpayer to easily identify the duties and powers of the position, for example, length of term and qualifications
- a description of each ballot initiative or question that enables the taxpayer to easily identify what the question deals with, what the financial cost of the question will be, who will be impacted by the question, what was the genesis of the ballot initiative, how long the proposed initiative will last, and who brought forth the proposal
- any tools or resources for taxpayers to effect change before or in response to a specific ballot question or initiative or candidate; this may include, but not be limited to, a publication and description of any and all voter-initiated measures that a voter may initiate in his or her jurisdiction
HB 2726 is awaiting assignment to a substantive House committee.