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Voters back Iraq, gun, wage proposals

Friday, November 10, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Josh Noel

Lost in the woes of all-night vote counting on Election Day is the fact that Cook County voters showed Tuesday they still predominantly lean left on key issues.

In a county that has long been resoundingly Democratic, three countywide referendum proposals were overwhelmingly endorsed: banning assault weapons, raising the minimum wage and pulling out of Iraq. More than 87 percent of voters supported the weapons ban, 85 percent endorsed raising the minimum wage, and 73 percent supported withdrawing American troops from Iraq.
Though the votes do not carry the weight of law, supporters of the measures said the results can affect policy. Critics say the non-binding proposals are little more than space and time wasters that don't produce meaningful information.

Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who proposed the referendum on the assault weapon ban, said he plans to use the overwhelming vote in favor of it as evidence that the public supports a real ban. Next week, Suffredin said, he will propose that fellow commissioners update a 1993 assault weapon ban, then drive to Springfield to try convincing legislators that a state ban is also wanted.

He plans to break the results down by district to underscore the point for suburban legislators who have resisted such bans, Suffredin said.

"With the figures, I think I'll be able to show that they should be more supportive of it," he said. "It gives me a persuasive argument that there is no reason to delay passage."

Suffredin said he was hoping for 80 percent approval after reading that a fifth of voters usually vote against referendum proposals out of hand.

Political scientists have said referendum items like withdrawing from Iraq might hold no practical weight but could be used to mobilize Democratic voters who want to send a message to national Republican leadership.

Such a message was sent, said State Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago), who was not responsible for the referendum item but used the Iraq war to mobilize voters. With other North Side Democrats, she erected signs across the North Side encouraging voters to express their displeasure at the polls by voting Democratic.

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