Higher Court to Decide Fate of Controversial Chicago Ballot Referendum on Funding for the Unhoused

Chicago, IL – The legal battle over a ballot referendum aimed at providing funding for the unhoused population is escalating as the case moves to a higher court. Last Friday, a circuit court judge declared the question unconstitutional, but the city is now seeking to overturn that ruling. The dispute centers around the Bring Chicago Home referendum, which has faced opposition from the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). BOMA filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Elections to remove the referendum from the ballot.

The three-part referendum asks voters to consider increasing the transfer tax on properties sold for over a million dollars while lowering it for properties sold for less. The proposal would raise the transfer tax from the current rate of 0.75% to 2% for properties valued at over $1 million and 3% for properties valued at over $1.5 million. In a written ruling on Monday, the judge sided with BOMA and ordered the Board of Elections to refrain from counting or publishing any vote totals.

In response, Chicago quickly moved to intervene in the case and appealed the ruling. The city also filed a motion to stay the judge’s decision. Mayor Brandon Johnson expressed his commitment to allow the people of Chicago the opportunity to have a say on this matter. The proposed measure aims to generate $100 million to assist individuals experiencing homelessness. However, critics claim that the referendum was flawed from the start due to the inclusion of multiple questions in a single query, which they argue is not permissible.

On the other hand, the attorney representing the Bring Chicago Home committee disagrees and believes that the referendum will ultimately be deemed valid through the appeals process. People are still voting, and their votes are recorded, although they will not be counted until a final decision has been made. The Board of Elections is currently reviewing the ruling and may decide to appeal as well. However, the city is seeking to become a party to the case, granting them the legal standing to make an appeal.

While it remains uncertain how long the appeals process will take, the primary election is only three weeks away. Over 1,000 votes have already been cast, and the question still appears on the ballots. Supporters of the referendum are urging voters not to give up, emphasizing that the question remains on the ballot and should still be voted upon. Meanwhile, the Chicago Board of Elections has declared that any previous votes for the referendum are sequestered and will not be counted for now, although this may change depending on future court orders.

The outcome of this ballot referendum case could have significant implications for Chicago’s approach to addressing homelessness and could shape the future of property taxation in the city.