Cook County voters called for immediate troop withdrawals from Iraq and tougher gun regulation, while rejecting tax increases to fund education. They also cast ballots Nov. 7 in favor of raising the minimum wage.

With 90 percent of precincts reporting, 65 percent of voters said “yes” on an advisory, countywide referendum to “immediately begin an orderly and rapid withdrawal of all its military personnel from Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and reserves.”

Nonbinding or “advisory” referendums allow voters to express their views on policy issues to state lawmakers.

Cook County voters were not alone, as dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq was largely credited with nationwide Democratic victories to regain control of the House of Representatives.

“Clearly, the White House got the message last night,” Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a news conference the day after polling. “The opportunity for new direction for Iraq was long overdue.”

Mayor Richard Daley agreed that the war in Iraq drove voting nationwide, and said the two biggest local issues were gun regulations and higher wages for working families.

Cook County voters passed “Advisory Referendum 1,” which asks the Illinois legislature to pass a comprehensive ban on the sale, delivery and possession of assault weapons and .50-caliber sniper rifles. The referendum passed by 84 percent, according to Cook County’s Election Department Web site.

Jennifer Bishop, Illinois field director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which supported the referendum, said the campaign was “enormously gratified” by the county’s “unprecedented” response. Because Cook County represents suburban as well as urban voters, Bishop said, the referendum is a mandate for state legislators to pass an assault-weapons ban that stalled in the state senate last spring.

“Now, any legislator that votes against the ban is not listening to the desires of the people of Illinois,” Bishop said. “Loud and clear, the numbers are saying these assault weapons do not belong in civilian hands.”

Voters across the county rejected proposals to increase property taxes to fund education.

Jeff Trigg, executive director of National Taxpayers United of Illinois, which lobbied against increasing property tax caps in school districts on Chicago’s West and Southwest Sides, said schools will be receiving more funds through higher assessments.

“I think that in particular districts, voters saw that there’s enough money to educate our children,” Trigg said.

Voters also passed “Advisory Referendum 2,” which asks legislators to increase the minimum wage for Illinois workers from $6.50 to $7.50 in 2007.