It happens all too frequently.
Voters walk away from the voting booth unhappy. Perhaps being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils is the source of frustration. Perhaps voters feel the choice is unclear.
One issue on the Nov. 4 ballot should cure those woes.
Illinois voters will have the opportunity to amend the Illinois Constitution by voting for the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights.
Victims rights were written into the Illinois Constitution passed in 1992. Unfortunately, no provisions were included to make those rights enforceable.
In addition, the constitution contains no provisions for appeal if those rights are violated.
“Victims of crime and their surviving families are entitled to a range of rights under clearly established law, but rights such as those to be notified of court proceedings and to deliver an impact statement at sentencing are too often ignored,” said Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, director of Marsy’s Law for Illinois. “Amending our constitution will enhance the safety of crime victims and provide an appropriate opportunity for them to participate in the judicial process. The legislature overwhelmingly voted to play the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights amendment on the ballot.”
This is a personal issue for Bishop-Jenkins. She spoke passionately to this newspaper’s editorial board about not being allowed to deliver an impact statement at the sentencing hearing for the person who killed three of her family members.
Among the basic rights that will be integrated into the state constitution are:
• The right to have the safety of the victim and their family considered in denying bail to the accused.
• The right to be notified about the release of the accused.
• The right to be informed of court proceedings.
• The right to be present at trials and hearings regarding their case.
• The right to deliver a victim impact statement.
• The right to greater access to post-trial proceedings.
• The right to timely action on their motions.
• The right to appeal decisions affecting the exercise of their rights.
If those rights seem basic, even intuitive, they are. Yet, under the current constitution those basic rights are not guaranteed.
Supporters attempted to place a similar measure on the ballot in 2012. However, opposition from state's attorneys around the state stymied the effort.
Since that time, supporters of the measure have worked with law enforcement officials to change the wording so that no limits are placed on prosecutors or defendants’ rights are not infringed upon.
Union County State’s Attorney Tyler Edmonds is vocally supportive of the changes.
“When you have rights you can’t enforce, you really have no rights at all,” Edmonds said. “It is a reason to go out and vote and feel good when you walk out of the voting booth.”
Supporters say there is virtually no opposition to the measure. Defense lawyers, who had opposed the previous measure, have essentially taken a neutral stand on the proposed amendment.
That doesn’t mean passage is automatic. Voters should not ignore the measure.
To pass, the proposition must receive 50 percent plus one of all votes cast, or a 60 percent plurality of votes cast on the measure.
The proposition is found at the bottom of the ballot. Supporters of the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights worry that voters will cast their ballot without voting on the measure.
Feel good about yourself on election day, take the time to cast a “Yes” vote for the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights.
As Edmonds noted, “It’s just a net benefit to the system.”