(The Center Square) – A group preparing to declare its independence from Illinois said residents are growing frustrated because they feel they aren’t being properly represented at the Illinois statehouse.
G.H. Merritt is the chairman of New Illinois, a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that plans to declare independence from Illinois from the Hancock County court steps this Saturday.
“We have a lot of support from the red side, you know the libertarians and the Republicans, but I really believe that’s mostly because those are the people that live in the area that doesn’t have a voice,” Merritt said.
After Saturday’s declaration, the group will lobby state lawmakers to get on board, she said.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said he’s open to having a conversation with members of the group.
“I think with a county and a community down there trying to declare independence is just their right to do it but I think that’s what you call cutting your nose off to spite your face,” Ford said.
New Illinois has 20 counties that have ratified resolutions supporting the effort. The goal is to get all counties except Cook on board. And it’s not just southern Illinoisans who are frustrated.
Merritt said the rest of the state is being controlled by Chicago politics, and not being represented.
“Up in Lake County, people are exiting the state, people are complaining about the state, people are supporting our movement, and it’s not because anybody’s all worked up about all of their money going to Alexander County, it’s because of the corruption, it’s because of the taxes.”
Illinois has a long history of corruption, with recent examples of bribery charges against lawmakers and federal investigations into more. The state is also consistently listed as the highest tax state with the largest unfunded long-term debt and worst credit rating.
Ford said those pushing for such independence should think further about the consequences.
“If they’re going to be a different state then that means prisons in those areas must be relocated out of that area,” Ford said. “There go those jobs for them. There goes their economy.”
Among the steps needed to create a new state from within an existing state is the approval of the legislature and then approval from the U.S. Congress.