Class teaches Illinois politics, government

Cassie Buchman, Administration Editor

Richard Wandling, the chair of the political science department, lectured about term limits and voter turnout at “Illinois Politics and Government: Options for Reform?” Tuesday afternoon.

Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed having term limits for legislators last year.

Wandling showed an article from the Chicago Tribune that said the Illinois Supreme Court decided not to hear the case for term limits.

Wandling said former Gov. Pat Quinn might have had an interest in term limits as well.

Wandling said Quinn in his earlier days was a political mobilizer.

“The negative description of him was a political gadfly,” Wandling said.

Wandling said Quinn eventually became part of the establishment.

“He moves from being a rabble-rouser to the establishment,” Wandling said.

Quinn came up with a term limit proposal to be adopted in Illinois affecting state legislators and the executive branch of the governor.

“He got signatures, and it looked like it would be on the ballot, but inevitable challenges happened,” Wandling said.

Wandling showed the article because it had a statement from Rauner saying Illinois needed term limits to get rid of career politicians like the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Michael Madigan.

“It’s obviously a politicized process, there’s no doubt about that,” Wandling said.

Wandling used a picture of Madigan in his presentation, because when there is a discussion of term limits, Madigan is usually brought up, regardless of party affiliation.

“Invariably the argument is going to be, well, look at all the years Mike Madigan has served,” Wandling said.

Madigan has held the position continuously since 1983.

“It looks like by the time I retire, I probably will retire before Michael Madigan,” Wandling said. “That looks like a good bet of what will happen.”

Wandling said he has been teaching about Madigan since he began teaching at Eastern in 1987.

“I think it’s important we all understand the constitutional initiative for a legislative article,” Wandling said.

There are different ways to change the Illinois State Constitution.

One way is to have a constitutional convention; the state legislature can also send questions out to the voters in a referendum process.

“In the context of what we’re looking at here in term limits, that is unlikely,” Wandling said. “It is unlikely the state legislature of their own volition would send a question out to term limit themselves. That would be a pretty amazing thing in the state of Illinois.”

15 states currently have term limits, including California, Ohio, South Dakota, Missouri, and Nebraska.

Wandling also touched on the topic of voter turnout.

He showed an editorial from the New York Times that said mid-term elections in 2014 had the worst voter turnout in 72 years.

“National turnout was 36.3 percent, only the 1942 federal election had a lower rate,” Wandling said.

Wandling said some of this was because of anger, apathy and negative tones in political campaigns.

“We all know about that,” Wandling said.

Wandling said mid-term election turnout tends to be lower, but Illinois looked OK in terms of voter turnout.

“We’re doing better than what the United States figure is, but we’re sort of hugging the middle,” Wandling said.

Steve Ferguson, a Mattoon resident, came to the class to learn more about politics and said he enjoyed it.

Part of his interest in politics comes from being the state’s attorney in Coles County for 20 years.

Ferguson said politics is part of what governs people.

“It determines our values as a society,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said the class is making him think.

“Should we have term limits, should we not,” Ferguson said. “Things like that.”

Although he has not yet changed his mind on his opinion, Ferguson is open to being persuaded.

Ferguson said it is important to be informed on politics and government.

“Voters need to be well-informed to make good decisions, otherwise we can be susceptible to the loudest speaker,” Ferguson said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]