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  • Constitutional Convention Collection

The move to call the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention to adopt the first new state constitution since 1870 gained momentum when the after the creation of the first Constitution Study Commission in 1965.  Following almost two years of study, the commission, recommended that the question of a convention call be put to the voters in the November 1968 election. When state voters called for the convention to be convened in December 1969, a third Constitution Study Commission was delegated to provide for convention organization and staffing arrangements.   

One hundred and sixteen delegates, two from each of the state senatorial districts, were elected in a special nonpartisan election on November 18, 1969.  The convention officially convened on December 8, 1969. Convention officers selected were: Samuel Witwer, President; John Alexander, Thomas C. Lyons, and Elbert S. Smith, Vice Presidents; and Odas Nicholson, Secretary.

The sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention met in the statehouse. When the General Assembly met in the spring of 1970, the convention moved to the newly restored Old State Capitol.  Nine substantive standing committees had been appointed by the convention.  Each committee was assigned a specific article that they were to revise, retain, or eliminate from the 1870 constitution.  Committee proposals were then submitted to the convention where the whole body deliberated on their inclusion into the constitution.  As part of the proposal writing stage, the committees on the Bill of Rights, the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary, Revenue and Finance, Education, Suffrage and Constitutional Amendment, Local Government and General Government held public hearings.  Committee debate and public hearings lasted until April 1970. From April until August, the convention worked on the final draft of the constitution.

The new constitution received the approval of Illinois voters in a special December 15, 1970 election.  The constitution took effect in July 1971. 

The finding aid for the Illinois Constitutional Convention, 1969-1970, Records, 1965-1972 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum may be found at http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/items/show/319.

Photographs in this collection include portraits of Constitutional Convention delegates and images of speakers addressing the convention.

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