More on ballot than president

By Melissa Silverberg

Aside from voting for delegates and presidential preferences for the 2008 elections Tuesday, citizens of Champaign County also had many referenda on the ballot concerning future programs and political decisions.

A referendum about the Military Commissions Act was voted on by the members of the City of Champaign.

Congress approved the Military Commissions Act in October 2006 and according to a White House press release, the Act was important for the Central Intelligence Agency to continue questioning terrorist suspects and prosecute them for their war crimes.

However, the Military Commissions Act also sets aside habeas corpus – freedom that U.S. citizens have from being thrown in jail illegally and with no ending date.

This act allows for Congress and the president to avoid abiding by rules concerning unlawful and indefinite imprisonment according to the American Civil Liberties Union. They also said that the Act gives the president power to define enemies and torturous activity.

Voters could vote yes to repeal or amend the Act or no to leave the Act as it was approved. The referendum passed with 67.93 percent of the vote.

Another referendum concerning the U.S. military faced Champaign voters Tuesday. The referendum asks residents if they would like Congress to limit military funding in Iraq to the level required to bring troops home or not. The referendum passed with 60.52 percent of the vote.

The last question posed to Champaign residents in the form of a referendum was about the amount of money that general assistance recipients should receive.

General assistance is a type of welfare given to poor residents that are not receiving any other type of welfare from the government.

The rate of monthly general assistance was cut in half a year ago. The referendum asked if residents would like to restore the level of welfare to help families and individuals struggling from extreme poverty in the township. With 70.59 percent of the vote, the referendum passed.

For Urbana residents, a referendum appeared on the ballot Tuesday dealing with the Urbana Park District. The Park District is asking for a 25-cent increase in its property tax rate which would overall be a 35 percent increase in their tax rate.

The extra money would be used to maintain the quality of parks under the Urbana Park District and update their recreation facilities. The district hopes to increase their limiting rate from $2,715,292 to $4,000,211.

Within the text of the referendum the Urbana Park District explained that if someone owns a single family residence worth $100,000 and the increase was approved, the additional tax they would have to pay in the future would amount to $83. In a close vote, the referendum did not pass by 64 votes.

Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden said there is a great chance for a recount concerning the Urbana referendum. He said there are still 47 outstanding absentee ballots that need to be counted and that election results are not final until 14 days after the election. It will be up to the Urbana Park District to seek a recount.