Getting a binding referendum on the November ballot on whether to allow video gambling in Forest Park depends on the village’s registered voters.
Forest Park resident and businessman Patrick Jacknow is one of about 30 village residents who have been out since early June trying to get enough registered voters to sign a petition so residents can decide, with a binding vote, whether to allow video gambling in the village.
According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, at least 25 percent of the registered voters in the village would have to sign the petition for a binding petition to be put on the ballot. A non-binding referendum would only need between five and eight percent of the registered voters in the village to sign the petition. There are 9,055 registered voters in Forest Park.
The referendum language would also have to be very specific and be filed 90 days prior to Election Day. Binding referenda are specifically authorized by a statute of the state constitution, and are much less common than non-binding referenda, according to the board of elections.
Jacknow said they want their referendum to be a binding one, and to that end, he has hired an attorney to draft the correct language as to how the question will appear on the November ballot. Jacknow said he and most of those who have been out soliciting residents to sign the petition hope in the end they vote against video gambling.
“Personally I don’t want to see gambling,” he said. “It would change the feel of the street.”
By street he means the village’s major business districts on Madison Street and Roosevelt Road.
Three years ago the idea of video gambling was rejected by voters in a non-binding referendum, but the idea has been resurrected, with discussion at a recent village-sponsored forum on the issue. Some residents believe video gambling machines will bring the village down while local business owners — especially those who own restaurants and bars — believe video gambling machines in their businesses would keep them competitive with similar businesses in surrounding villages.
Jacknow said he understands because he runs a real estate business in the village and can relate because it’s tough competing with big-name real estate companies, but he finds other ways to compete and believes other local businesses can do the same without video gambling.
“I understand, but I live here and I don’t want to see it here,” he said. “[Video gambling] wasn’t here when you got here.”
According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, the deadline to file the petition with the village clerk is Aug. 8. Monday, Aug. 15 is the last day to file objections to referenda petitions.
Monday, Aug. 22 is the last day for local governing boards to adopt a resolution or ordinance to allow binding public questions to appear on the ballot.
Sept. 1 is the last day for the county clerk to certify the general election ballot.
Jacknow believes he will have enough signatures to get a binding referendum on the ballot. Even if they come up a little short he hopes the village board does not stand in their way.
“It would be a real slap in the face to the residents and citizens of Forest Park and an abuse of power,” he said. “We just want to put it on the ballot and may the best man win.”