• Michael McDevitt
    FEB 27, 2024

    City files appeal in Bring Chicago Home lawsuit, as question remains on ballot but won’t be counted without reversal

    City Hall is pictured in this file photo

    Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Burke did not elaborate on her reasoning for invalidating the Bring Chicago Home referendum in a Friday ruling. In a court order received Monday by the Chicago Board of Elections, the defendant in the lawsuit against the referendum, Burke wrote that she ruled against the legality of the ballot question to raise the transfer tax on high-end property sales “for the reasons stated in open court and on the record.” 

    The court order confirms that the Bring Chicago Home referendum (R2023-0004166) will remain on the primary election ballot but will not be countable or reportable unless an appeals court reverses the decision. The city filed a notice of appeal on Monday. 

    “This is subject to change by future court order, so the votes for the question are being sequestered but will not be counted at this time,” Board of Elections spokesperson Max Bever said in a statement.

    Bever also said the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will itself “decide upon an appeal” on Tuesday.

    On Monday, the city of Chicago filed a notice of appeal and asked the Appellate Court of Illinois for the First District to reverse Burke’s decision. 

    "We applaud the city’s decision to appeal the judge’s ruling and remind our supporters that they can and should continue to vote YES on Ballot Question 1 while the appeal is underway," Maxica Williams, chair of the End Homelessness Ballot Initiative Committee and Board President of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement. "Our campaign hit record numbers via doors, phones, and grassroots fundraising this weekend, mobilized by this blatant attempt at voter suppression by a handful of wealthy real estate interests. Together, we will continue to move closer to realizing our vision of getting Chicagoans out of the cold and into a home."

    The board is being sued by the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA), Chicagoland Apartment Association, Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance, Women Construction Owners and Executives’ Chicago chapter, Southland Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Chicagoland Association of Shopping Center Owners and others. 

    Following Burke’s ruling Friday, the city of Chicago, which is not a party to the lawsuit, filed a motion in circuit court to stay both the order invalidating the referendum and the denial of a request by the city to intervene in the case until appeals can play out. 

    The city’s newly filed motion states that the ballot question is an “an advisory referendum that is part of the City’s legislative process,” since the referendum asks voters to give the city consent to make changes to the real estate transfer tax.

    The question asks voters to OK a decrease of the real estate transfer tax to 0.6 percent for properties under $1 million, a rate hike to 2 percent for sales between $1 million and $1.5 million and a rate hike to 3 percent for property transfers above $1.5 million. The revenue “is to be used for the purpose of addressing homelessness, including providing permanent affordable housing and the services necessary to obtain and maintain permanent housing in the City of Chicago.”  

    The city argues in its motion that it deserves to be a party to the lawsuit since it ultimately affects the city's processes. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that only the Board of Elections can provide relief since it prints the ballots and administers elections.

    “Chicago City Council has proposed amending its municipal ordinances on transfer tax and needs approval through referendum to do so,” the city writes. “The City not only has an interest in seeing its legislative process continue unimpeded but has an interest in protecting its citizens’ right to vote as part of the process required by law.” 

    The lawsuit, filed against the Chicago Board of Elections in January, alleged that the city bundling a real estate transfer tax increase on high-end sales with a tax decrease on less expensive sales amounts to prohibited logrolling. The suit also argued that the ballot question is unconstitutional because it is not specific enough about how the revenue raised will be used. 

    Additionally, plaintiffs argued the referendum question violates the Illinois Constitution because it violates voters’ right to vote on each of the portions of the question separately.

    Despite her order claiming the reasons were stated in court, Burke did not explain on Friday which of the plaintiffs’ arguments influenced her decisions and instead opted to read the motions from all parties for more than two hours.

Be the first to comment

Or sign in with email

    Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.