Good Riddance Chicago…If Only

The Madison-St. Clair Record

Tad Armstrong

I would be first in line to support dividing the State of Illinois into the State of Chicago and the State of [Blank].

The first task would be to arrive at a name for the State of Not-Chicago that would absolutely and forever insure that no person alive today or (and, here is the tricky part) to be born hereafter would ever be offended by the name we choose. Not an easy task when you think about it.

The second task would be to determine where to draw the line. I would be in favor of including Quincy in the State of Not-Chicago, dipping down and losing Springfield, jumping up and keeping Bloomington and Decatur and losing my alma mater, Champaign.

But, seriously, according to the Madison-St. Clair Record, the Madison County Board has been asked by two no doubt well-intended Illinois residents (Courtney Peridone and Loret Newlin) to put what they call a “separation referendum” on the November ballot. They say if it passes the referendum would “give permission to the county board to talk to other county boards” about the possibility of separating.

I wholeheartedly support the cause, but the design of the road map to give us a state free of the Chicago influence is flawed and, therefore, a true waste of time and money.

The Madison County Board does not need a successful referendum to somehow gain “permission” to talk to other county boards. They certainly have the authority to “speak” without a vote.

The proponents say the referendum is advisory only and would not make separation happen but would find out the “will of the people.” Such a statement is internally inconsistent. Finding out whether the “people” want to discuss the question has nothing to do with how they would like it to be resolved.

And, lest we all forget, the “will of the people” has spoken on this topic. Article IV §3 of the document all branches of government are so willing to forget (the Constitution, otherwise known as the Supreme Law of the Land) speaks to the issue by outlining what it takes to add new states to the Union, to wit: “no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State…without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

The last “state” to successfully divide occurred in 1863 when West Virginia broke away from Virginia. Check the year and check the region and it is easy to conclude the motivating force behind that separation.

It is clear that one state cannot divide without a majority vote in the House and in the Senate; that is, in the Congress of the United States. The framers may have forgotten that it is fairly difficult to obtain the consent of the two new state legislatures before they are formed, but it is a safe bet that, once again and at a minimum, a majority vote of both houses of the Illinois legislature would be required by Article IV.

The proponents say “many of us no longer consent to being governed by [the] Chicago-dominated legislature.” True, but alas, there will be no chance of success until that very legislature is convinced they should let the rest of us have our way. That is simply not going to happen…ever.

The primary difficulty with a constitutional separation is the fact that the two new entities will each get two senators at the national level. The political implications of that at any given point in time make the goal nearly impossible to achieve. Additionally, electoral college votes pose red hot political challenges.

Depending upon the stress level of those who would like to separate, there are only two other remedies: move out of Illinois or amend the Constitution of the United States. Congress will not likely ever be so concerned about any one state’s desires to pass such a proposed amendment by a 2/3 majority which would then have to be ratified by 3/4of the states. Again, not going to happen.

The easiest route (relatively speaking) to separation is for 2/3 of the state legislatures to call a constitutional convention which would then need to ratify such an amendment by ¾ of the said legislatures. This method takes Congress out of the picture, but don’t count on the Illinois legislature’s vote in favor of such a convention. 

So, Courtney and Loret, I sympathize with your cause, but until you convince the Chicago-dominated legislature a/k/a the Democrat-dominated legislature to voluntarily give up power, the effort is a lost cause before it gets off the ground. But, thanks for the attempt and a chance to educate on the question.

Tad Armstrong is an Edwardsville (Illinois) lawyer, founder of ELL Constitution Clubs (www.ellconstitutionclubs.com), frequent talk show guest, op-ed writer and author of two books on the Constitution: “It’s OK to Say ‘God”‘ and “ONE.” He can be reached at 618-978-4476.

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