JERSEY COUNTY, Ill. – The Illinois Attorney General recently struck down a push for one Metro East county to leave the state and join Missouri.
Illinois AG Kwame Raoul returned an opinion document on Oct. 17 that essentially means Jersey County will remain part of Illinois for the foreseeable future. “It is my opinion that non-home-rule counties, such as Jersey County, do not have the authority to secede from the State of Illinois and join another state,” the document states.
According to the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, the effort has been sought by some groups within the county since at least 2021, with one board member floating the idea of a ballot referendum to switch statehood.
With a non-home-rule county designation, as Raoul pointed out, Jersey County must abide by the legal opinion of the state of Illinois.
Raoul adds that even if Jersey County were authorized to leave the state, there isn’t a statutory procedure for secession and that the process would prompt federal concerns. “A state’s sovereignty over its territory is fundamental to our federal system and is a principle found throughout the text of the United States Constitution,” said the opinion document.
Jersey County is home to more than 21,000 residents and communities like Grafton, Elsah and Jerseyville.
The attempt for Jersey County to secede is not the only one deigned to challenge Illinois state boundaries in recent years. A GOP Illinois state representative first submitted a proposal in 2019 in hopes to split the City of Chicago, one of the largest in the United States, from the rest of the state.
That’s been followed up by another group’s attempt to form a new state within Chicago’s and urban Cook County’s boundaries. Another publication (Chicago Magazine) unofficially proposed a trade of land between southern Illinois and St. Louis earlier this year.
One common denominator between these ideas: Political preferences, most notably prevalent in people’s thoughts about the Chicagoland compared to the rest of the state.
A Simon Institute poll from February 2020 asked if Illinois should be divided into two states. One composed of Chicago, and the rest composed of downstate. Democrats largely rejected the idea, while it had support from about half of Illinois Republicans.