URBANA — Mayor Laurel Prussing says she will look in to how to address two ballot questions that city voters this week overwhelmingly approved.
Nearly 72 percent of voters said they would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that money should not be regarded as political speech and private campaign spending should be regulated.
And more than 74 percent of voters said they would support a city ordinance requiring the private owners of public spaces — like a mall or parking lot — to allow non-disruptive political activity on their premises.
Prussing said she was not surprised by the large amount of support. She said there was not much campaigning on either side, and for many voters, the first time they saw the question may have been in the polling booth.
"There wasn't really any campaigning," Prussing said. "I think people just read it and thought, 'Oh yeah, I like that.'"
Both questions were advisory and really only symbolic in nature. Nevertheless, they could spark some movement at the city level.
City officials cannot do much more than write a resolution expressing support to state and federal legislators for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But in the other referendum, voters asked for a city ordinance, over which Prussing and the city council have direct control.
"We'll have a hearing on that," Prussing said. "We'll look into the legalities of it."
The ballot question specifically asked if the city should "establish by ordinance that such privately owned public spaces respect the right of polite, non-disruptive free political speech."
The questions were approved for the ballot by residents who attended a Cunningham Township town hall meeting in April. They almost did not make Tuesday's ballot because they did not conform to state rules for the wording of ballot questions, but city officials sent them along and County Clerk Gordy Hulten eventually printed them anyway.
Voters in Champaign only saw one of those questions on their ballots. More than 72 percent of Champaign voters said that they would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to regulate political spending.
There's no guarantee that the support for either question will gain any momentum with the Urbana City Council.
In the case of political speech on private property, Prussing did not discount proposing an ordinance, but she said there are plenty of other venues for political activity — public sidewalks and the Internet, for example.
"I don't think that there's any lack of ability for people to get political ideas across," she said.
But city officials will look into it anyway, and it is possible that an advisory resolution on campaign spending could be forthcoming.
"There's just too much money," Prussing said. "It's just insane."