Two state officials said Monday they seek to replace what they view as biased wording on a referendum question that will ask Illinois voters on Nov. 4 whether the state needs a new constitutional convention.

Two state officials said Monday they seek to replace what they view as biased wording on a referendum question that will ask Illinois voters on Nov. 4 whether the state needs a new constitutional convention.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and state Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, said at a State Capitol news conference that they’re willing to head to court to force the change, but Quinn called such a move “the last resort.”

Quinn and Boland contend the presently proposed wording on the constitutional convention question is biased because it mentions the outcome of the last referendum asking voters if the Illinois Constitution needed to be changed.

“In 1988 the electors rejected the call for a constitutional convention, with 75 percent voting against calling a convention and 25 percent voting in favor of calling a convention,” the proposed wording says.

Quinn and Boland say the previous outcome is irrelevant and should not be part of the question on the 2008 ballot. Boland said referring to the 1988 results makes it appear that calling for a constitutional convention is “a far-out thing.”

Illinois voters decide at least once every 20 years whether to call a constitutional convention, through which delegates would propose changes to the constitution. Any changes ultimately would have to be approved by voters.

Secretary of State Jesse White has the authority to submit the referendum question so it appears on election ballots. Quinn said he formally asked White last week to change the wording for the 2008 referendum question, but White said no.

White spokesman Henry Haupt said the proposed wording came from the legislature.

“It is not our role to be the editor of the language submitted by the General Assembly, which is their statutory obligation,” he said.

Boland has introduced a resolution calling for new, simpler wording. Haupt said that if the House and Senate adopt the resolution, White would pass along that wording to state election officials to put on the ballot.

Meanwhile, a Chicago-area attorney on Friday filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against White on another aspect of the referendum question.

Attorney Bruno Behrend contends that inaccurate information is being distributed about the constitutional convention. Web sites providing information about elections in Cook County and the City of Chicago include the outdated, false statement that failing to vote on the referendum is the same as voting no.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Tuesday in Chicago.

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.