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Jersey County to vote on separating Illinois and Chicago in November

JERSEYVILLE – Voters in November will be asked if they want Jersey County to join other downstate counties in leaving Illinois.

The likelihood of that happening, even if a majority supports the idea, is slim; Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul already addressed the idea in November, saying the county cannot secede from the state.

County board member Jeremy Beasley wants to try it anyway. He said he learned about the separation movement through the group Illinois Separation Referendum and asked other board members if they would include a discussion about it on the agenda.

There has been talk of creating a “New Illinois” since 2018. Supporters say the division would follow “the process provided for in the Constitution of the United States… in the same way that West Virginia separated from Virginia.”

The idea is to put Chicago and the urban counties into one state and create a new state from the southern Illinois counties. The population of Chicago and its counties is sufficient to determine the political and ideological tendencies of the state, although they are often at odds with those of places in the south of the state.

The idea of ​​divorcing the state was raised in 2021 by Jersey County Board member Eric Ivers. That plan would have moved Jersey County to neighboring Missouri.

Although postponed at the time, the discussion led State Attorney Benjamin L. Goetten to seek guidance.

about the legalities that would be involved.

While the Illinois Constitution does not directly address the issue of county secession, Raoul said it does “delineate the powers of non-home rule counties and establishes the manner in which county boundaries may be changed,” but it does not give counties the authority to secede from the state.

He added that “any referendum on the question of county secession would have no binding legal effect.”

Beasley said he’s excited anyway.

“This is more of an opportunity to see what people want,” he said. “Just because you might want something and are on the board doesn’t necessarily mean we can make it happen, but we need the option to ask the people of Jersey County what they would like.”

Beasley said he supports the idea of ​​separation because he doesn’t like the way Chicago spends tax money and he disagrees with policy decisions on issues such as gun control.

“I feel like it’s worth getting the information out to people, letting them know that there is a real process involved, (that) another state can be created,” he said.

Jersey County is certainly not alone. NBC Chicago said 27 Illinois counties have passed referendums to explore secession or separation from the state. Madison County voters will also have a separation referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot.