By Stephanie Malench
Over recent years, residents throughout Illinois have expressed dissatisfaction with the Illinois legislature passing laws that apply to Chicago while ignoring the rest of the state. Currently, there are two distinct and separate groups looking to form a new state, leaving Chicago behind.
The first group, Illinois Separation, is seeking to separate from Chicago through referendums passed in each of the 101 counties (excluding Cook County which Chicago is located in). The movement took hold when Governor JB Pritzker doubled the gas tax and increased numerous other taxes in early 2020.
Between the 2020 elections and the spring 2021 election, 25 counties have already passed the referendum, and six more (Hancock, Bond, Jasper, Wayne, Edwards, and Wabash) either have enough petition signatures or approval from their county board to put the referendum on the next election’s ballot.
The population of Illinois is approximately 12.7 million, 2.7 million or 21% of which are from Chicago. Because of this and the concentration of representatives in Chicago and the “collar counties”, it does not matter how Katie Stewart (D) or Charlie Meyer (R) vote.
Opponents to both methods of creating a new state without Chicago claim that the rest of the state needs Chicago to remain financially solvent. This is because money to the state’s universities and prisons throughout the state is considered money going downstate, or leaving Chicago. In 2013 dollars, Cook County paid $11.9 million and received $9.5 billion. $80.4 million in tax dollars goes to the collar counties.
Opponents also say that separating is the rest of the state’s answer to wanting to be a Republican state because Chicago carries the majority of Democrat voters in statewide elections.
The idea of one state forming from another is not new. West Virginia disagreed with Virginia’s plan to secede from the Union during the Civil War and became its own state and becoming its own state in the Union on June 20, 1863. Currently, Washington, D.C. is setting the precedent of filing for statehood.
Although volunteers for Illinois Separation had circulated petitions in 2020 and presented their case to the Madison County Board, because the board decided not to put the referendum on the November 2020 ballot, the group is starting over on collecting 8,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot during one of the next upcoming elections (November 2021 or April 2022). The nonbinding referendum is strictly to send a message to the county’s state representatives that they want their county to pull away.
Once the majority of counties have passed the referendum each county board will then select two members to go to the Constitutional Convention.
The other group, New Illinois, a nonpartisan educational group whose mission is to educate Illinoisans about their right under Article 4 section 3 to for a new state under the U.S. Constitution was started in the spring of 2018. Their first year was spent getting organized and creating the necessary documents.
In February of 2019, county committees were created and HR 101 was introduced by Representative Brad Hallbrook (R-Shelbyville) asking the United States Congress to “remove Chicago from Illinois and make the city of 2.7 million people its own state”.
The resolution cites two major examples in support of the request. The first pertains to “electoral results such as the 2010 gubernatorial election in which the Democrat candidate won the election despite only carrying four counties out of 102 counties, and, in fact, did not need to carry any other counties to win because of the margin of victory in Chicago and Cook County”.
In the second example, “The City of Chicago is often bailed out by taxpayers in the rest of the State, such as the $221 million bailout for the CPS [Chicago Public Schools] pension system was signed into law last year”.
On October 17, 2020 the Formal Declaration of Independence was read by Chair GH Merritt outside the Hancock County Courthouse in Carthage.
According to The United States Constitution, Article IV Section 3, “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress”.
New states must enter as pairs. Other bodies looking to be admitted as states include Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and New California (the northern half of the current state of California).
New Illinois has formulated six grievances in the form of position papers written by a constitutional lawyer since December 2020 as “Notices to All Illinoisans” read in public places throughout “New Illinois”. The grievances are similar to those filed by the US Colonies in their Declaration of Independence from England in 1776.
Each grievance addresses specific Articles and Amendments from the United States and Illinois Constitutions and is backed by United States Supreme Court Cases and guiding rules of the State of Illinois. New Illinois plans to release 40 grievances before the end of 2021, all clustered into three focal areas: representative government, government corruption, and fiscal catastrophe.
Although both groups are independent with the same goal, there is some overlap in their work.
New Illinois uses some of the statistics collected by Illinois Separation, such as the number of voters in the different counties that support breaking free of Chicago.
Three of New Illinois’ county representatives are working with Illinois Separation helping collect signatures.
To learn more about the groups go to https://www.facebook.com/Illinois-Separation-Referendum-106263021268641 and https://www.facebook.com/NewIllinoisState.