Four Illinois counties to vote on secession from Chicago. What if they succeed?

May 16, 2020


Shelby County, Ill., voted Thursday to include a question on the November ballot examining whether the Land of Lincoln should eject Chicago from Illinois. Shelby County becomes the fourth county to include the question of secession, joining Effingham, Lafayette and Jefferson counties. 

As the fissure between the Chicagoland area and the remaining 47,058 square miles of Illinois widens, the longstanding disconnect between the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin Metropolitan Division and the remainder of Illinois prompts consideration of the ramifications of such a divorce. 

The emergence of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic highlights the differences between the Chicago metropolitan area and the remainder of Illinois. Despite the nine counties comprising the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin Metropolitan Division plus Lake County contributing 47,552 (52.6%) of Illinois’ 90,369 cases, the entire state abides by the same lockdown measures, despite advancing to different stages at varying intervals.

To put that into greater perspective, an area comprising only 18.7% of Illinois’ total area is steering the stay at home guidelines for the remaining 81.3% of the state.

It makes sense that the rest of Illinois feels disenfranchised when it comes to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 lockdown measures. But what happens should the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan finally embrace the threats of its state counterparts, take its ball and go elsewhere?

Ejecting approximately three-fourths of the state’s population inevitably results in forfeiting congressional and, by extension, electoral representation. As of 2020, 15 of Illinois’ 18 congressional districts cover either all or part of the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan, though District 16 is mostly adjacent counties. 

Illinois, which is on pace to lose two of its 20 electoral votes due to stagnating population growth, would adopt a Republican identity at the expense of 15 electoral votes should district lines remain unchanged. Barring alterations in district parameters, Illinois would retain three electoral college votes, the equivalent of Montana (three) and less than Rhode Island (four). 

From a gross domestic product (GDP) standpoint, the losses accompanying a Chicago-Naperville-Elgin departure would be enormous. According to the Federal Reserve Economic Data of St. Louis, the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan contributed $689.5 million to Illinois’ $865.3 million in GDP, or 89.5%.

Of course, that group includes four counties in Indiana (Porter, Newton, Lake and Jasper) and one in Wisconsin (Kenosha), though the combined population of those five counties combined is about 58,000 less than DuPage county alone. 

Should Illinois lose the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan, the remaining 31.3% of Illinois’ population would be left with just 20% of the state’s GDP, inevitably lowering the budget of a state already bordering on junk status. 

On the other hand, Chicago representatives are no longer burdened with redistributing revenue earned by big city expenditures to their smaller-city counterparts. 

Finally, while admittedly speculation, alterations in social life likely follow a separation between the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan and Illinois. Major team sports undoubtedly continue to represent Chicago, though the divorce likely severs their association with the remainder of the state likely.

Of course, residents of Central, Southern and Northwest Illinois are at liberty to continue supporting Chicago teams, though Chicago residents would no longer embrace such attempts as athletic camaraderie. 

The Chicagoland area and its constituents most likely survive–perhaps even thrive–absent the remainder of the state. The burden rests with the remainder of Illinois to determine whether economic and electoral forfeitures are worth seizing control of the remaining area. 

Read more by Matthew Rago:

Wisconsin’s COVID-19 cases jump 65%, Milwaukee’s positivity rate increases by 100%

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  • G

    G. H. MerrittJan 22, 2021 at 11:51 pm

    @BriaB – I’m not really understanding what your are saying. First of all, this is not secession. There is a legal difference. We aren’t leaving the United States, and the constitutional formation of a new state is not the same thing as secession. The way it would affect the election for governor is that J. B. Pritzker, who is a resident of Chicago, would continue to be the Governor of “Old Illinois.” “Old Illinois” would consist of Chicago, most of Cook County, and whatever parts of the state wanted to stay with them. New Illinois (or whatever the new state ended up being called) would have a governor who lived there and was voted in by the people. Each state would have its own taxing bodies.

  • B

    BriaBDec 7, 2020 at 10:31 am

    I think this is a bad idea. You have to think about how the succession would affect the elections for governor as well. So, are you saying you would succeed from the taxing bodies yet we vote for the Governor of the State of Illinois.? That would be concern.

  • J

    Jaime B SlightomMay 19, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    First of all, where is the state capital?? The last I knew it was still in downtown Springfield Il. So yes the city needs to be it’s own county and the suburbs needs to be with the surrounding counties. Our state offices should be in our capital city and not have several in chicago. I don’t care about what the mayor of chicago thinks about this virus. If so then why haven’t the mayors of the other cities in this state be interviewed. All these DUMOCRATS are killing this state.

  • G

    G. H. MerrittMay 19, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    Glad to see you are writing about this issue and show understanding of what Illinoisans outside of Cook County are thinking about Gov. Pritzker’s ham-handed approach to the COVID-19 crisis. However, the advisory referendum in Shelby County doesn’t tell the whole story.

    New Illinois is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with the mission of educating Illinoisans about their right, under the U.S. Constitution, to pursue the formation of a new state separate from the State of Illinois. Our group formed two years ago during the Rauner administration in response to 3 things: the lack of representative government outside of Chicago/Cook County, the legendary corruption in Illinois government, and our state’s fiscal catastrophe. We currently have committees in 55 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

    Your economic numbers don’t represent what we, or the larger movement, are trying to do. We are not trying to separate from the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin Metropolitan division. New Illinois has committees in Lake, McHenry, Kane and DuPage Counties. Our goal is to include all or most of the 101 counties outside of Cook in a new state. Under that scenario, New Illinois will include 60% of the current Illinois population (about 7.6 million people). “Old Illinois”–consisting of Chicago/Cook, would have 40% of the current Illinois population (about 5.2 million people). New Illinois would have a population and GDP exceeding that of Indiana, which means it would be a viable state.

    And we aren’t trying to kick Chicago out of Illinois–we’re trying to kick OURSELVES out. We want a new start with a new state and a new state constitution. New Illinois is focused on the urban vs. rural, small town, and suburban divide. Any county, township or town in Illinois can be a part of New Illinois, except for Chicago. There are townships in Cook County that have voted in the past to leave Cook, and many people there want to be part of the new state. We also think it is likely that the SE corner of Lake County would want to stay with Old Illinois. It’s important to be clear–the issue is urban vs. rural, not red vs. blue. Rural and urban areas have different needs, interests and economies. Gov. Pritzker’s actions in this crisis have brought the one-size-fits-all reality that has been imposed on the rest of the state for a very long time out in the open for everyone to see.

    For more information, please see
    G. H. Merritt, Chairman
    New Illinois

  • S

    SD CarlsonMay 19, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Clearly Chicago is the bad apple that has spoiled the whole barrel! Now that Chicago has done this, the state of Illinois is beyond repair & needs to be dissolved.
    Many counties need to be merged together & Cook county most likely needs to have Chicago cut out of Cook. There are simply too many governmental entities in IL. Once these measures have been taken, the counties should hold a convention & decide if they are better off joining a neighboring state or coming together to form a new state of their own.
    This virus makes for a good time to make these changes as there is no way forward as a state with the terrible credit rating that IL has earned itself.
    The taxpayers have been slaves to the bad constitution which doesn’t allow for changes in the pensions that the politicians have promised state workers. If the amount which the taxpayers have been able to fund were simply rolled into a 403b for each state employee in the pension system, those employees would have more in their new 403b than the public sector workers in IL have in their 401k & their IRAs.
    The status quo has to end ASAP & once it does, the good people of IL will see an increase in their property values that those in neighboring states have seen while IL has been stuck in the mud.

  • P

    PaulMay 19, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Unless the pension clause in the Constitution is changed it won’t make any difference. We still could not pay what we have promised.

  • B

    BillMay 18, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    I might say that not only did vehicle plates go up 50.00 but I have a utility trailer that went from 18.00 to 118.00. That is unheard of.

  • S

    StacyMay 18, 2020 at 10:25 am

    This is sad… I am ashamed to say I’m from Illinois! Chicago ia a part Illinois, just like St. Louis is a part of Missouri. Both has High Crime Rates, so what’s the difference? This sad and wrong. Cannot wait to Election Day, Pitlzer needs to go join his Family in Florida. Every since he has been electric, Illinois has went to hell. He using our taxes to pay for his $12 million dollars him in Florida! Also, raising taxes and we already has been established as the poorly state, so now, what we suppose to do, be bums and homeless? Car stickers was $100 now $150. Chops and pop say $1.20 but with the taxes $1.63 like seriously! He is a Joke!

  • F

    Fmarsh51May 17, 2020 at 7:17 pm

    The state needs Chicago and cook to remain viable. Too many years of Rethuglicans kicking the pension obligations to our teachers, fire , and police has created the deficit.

  • J

    Joseph CMay 17, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Those who think it economically viable to separate most of the state from Cook County and/or the City of Chicago should think again. But, as my late father would say, some people have just enough sense to pound sand in a rat hole.

  • J

    Joseph CMay 17, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Those who think it is economically viable to separate from Cook County or the City of Chicago should think again. But, as my late father would say, some people have just enough sense to pound sand in a rat hole.

  • S

    Sherry DouglasMay 17, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    It seems to me that if Illinois were to ‘lose’ Chicago, that the bulk of the state could then represent the citizens who, without Chicago, are largely conservative. We would be (or should be) out of the clutches of the corrupt Madigan machine that runs this state, into the ground, I might add. A more conservative legislative body would be able to promote a more balanced budget that doesn’t increase taxes on the hard working citizens of this state who are tired of paying for illegals and cow towing to sanctuary laws. We would have an honest electoral representation in the elections. People are afraid to rock the boat, but we won’t sink! We can chart a better course that recognizes the needs of Illinoisans. And we can still love our Cubbies!

  • B

    BrendahixenbaughMay 17, 2020 at 10:56 am

    . What has Winconsin got to do with Illinois? That is a totally different state. So how is it counted in with Chicago?

    • M

      Managing EditorMay 17, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      Wisconsin was not counted among the statistics.

  • N

    Nancie CMay 17, 2020 at 2:30 am

    It makes no sense that Cook County includes the city and the suburbs. The needs of each are as different as night and day. Chicago should be it’s own county, and suburbs should join different counties based on location and other criteria. It’s ridiculous that this hasn’t been done decades ago!!

  • K

    Keith christMay 17, 2020 at 2:02 am

    This state is stay at home because of 2 zip codes in Chicago. 60632 and 60629. Look at the numbers. Lock these 2 zip codes down. 4000 seats in Illinois and 2600 from cook county which includes chicago. Pritzker and light foot do what’s right. Lock those zips down keep them closed they are spreading this virus. Check out percentages of tests to positives in these 2 zips I believe it’s about42%

  • A

    Artur WlosikMay 16, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    City of Chicago should be separate county !!!!!