Effingham County voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly said they want Chicago to separate from the rest of Illinois. A local referendum favored that by a margin of 73.8 percent to 26.2 percent.
The idea surfaced in February 2019, when State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, proposed it. Since then the notion has gained traction in many areas of central and southern Illinois.
The Effingham County Board agreed in August to have the Chicago separation referendum on the ballot. It has no legal force; it’s an expression of the sentiment of Effingham County voters.
Discussion of divorcing the Windy City from the rest of the state began among county board members in April.
Board member Heather Mumma said, “I’m hearing from my constituents every day through many varieties of communication that this is one thing they’d like to see on the ballot as a referendum. They all seem to have a different reasoning. The main thing I am hearing is we have spoken to Springfield through the Second Amendment resolution and also the resolution for the unborn, and they just don’t seem to be listening.”
“Also, (it’s) the taxation that we’re going to receive for proposed medical benefits that we don’t agree with, things that maybe many of the people in the county don’t feel are moral,” Mumma said. “I feel that the people should be able to speak.”
Effingham resident Shirley McEvers attended the meeting to speak out against the referendum. McEvers said she sees no benefit in separating the bottom portion of the state and making Chicago its own state. She cited a study by Southern Illinois University of Carbondale on state funding.
“Why would we want to separate from Chicago considering the tax benefits we have? Here alone in this county, we receive $84 million for Medicaid. Now tell me, if we separate off when the vast majority of the money is coming out of the suburbs of Cook County itself, where’s that going to leave us financially?” McEvers said.
“I understand frustrations that everyone has with legislators in Springfield, and I have those same frustrations, but I don’t think this is an Effingham County issue,” said Board member Joe Thoele, who voted against putting the question on the ballot. “This is something that needs to be done by the entire state, not Effingham County.”