AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: This blog post is the first in a three-part special series of blog posts, entitled “Dividing Illinois”, about three different proposals to split Illinois into two states, none of which are supported by the author. The next blog post in the series can be found here.
AUTHOR’S NOTE #2: The description of Illinois HR101 as the Chicago expulsion bill, as used by the author of this blog post, is a descriptive term to describe the bill’s intent.
Introduction to the Series
Several far-right Republican members of the Illinois House of Representatives, including Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville), Chris Miller (R-Charleston), Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur), C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville), Tony McCombie (R-Savanna), Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City), and Randy Frese (R-Paloma), all of whom represent districts that are outside of the Chicago metropolitan area, are listed as supporting a bill (Illinois HR101) to expel the City of Chicago from the State of Illinois and ask Congress to grant statehood to the City of Chicago. As Democrats control both houses of the Illinois General Assembly with veto-proof supermajorities, the bill is not expected to pass, and, as Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the Illinois General Assembly approve of any attempt to create a new state out of any part of the current State of Illinois, splitting Illinois into multiple states is not expected to happen, at least in the near future.
Make no mistake about it, there is a clearly right-wing motive behind the Chicago expulsion bill. In fact, part of the bill’s text reads, “…The majority of residents in downstate Illinois disagree with City of Chicago residents on key issues such as gun ownership, abortion, immigration, and other policy issues…”, referencing the bill’s supporters’ opposition to gun safety measures, reproductive rights, humane immigration policies, and other progressive ideals. However, it’s important to note that the Democratic nominees in the most recent elections for President of the United States (in 2016) and Governor of Illinois (in 2018) received a plurality of the vote in the portion of the State of Illinois that is not part of the City of Chicago.
It is important to note that HR101’s definition of “downstate Illinois”, which defines “downstate Illinois” as all parts of the State of Illinois that are outside the City of Chicago, is different than my own definition of Downstate Illinois, is different than my own definition of Downstate Illinois, which defines Downstate Illinois as all parts of the State of Illinois that are not within a six-county area including the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will. HR101’s definition of “downstate Illinois” is equivalent to my definition of Greater Illinois, which I define as all parts of the State of Illinois that are not within the City of Chicago. Due to the risk of possibly ending up living in a state with a Republican-controlled state legislature that would likely pass a large amount of right-wing legislation if the City of Chicago were to be removed from the State of Illinois, I oppose any effort to split the State of Illinois into multiple states, including HR101.
Any proposal to split Illinois into two states would result in the U.S. Senate increasing in size from 100 seats to 102 seats, and, assuming the Electoral College is not abolished, and the total number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives is not increased or decreased, before Illinois were to be split into two states, increase the size of the Electoral College from 538 electors to 540 electors, with the number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency increasing from 270 to 271. In this blog post, I will provide a political analysis of what would happen if the City of Chicago were to be expelled from the State of Illinois, and the City of Chicago were to be granted statehood, which is the goal of the HR101 proposal. In the next two blog posts of the series, I will provide analyses of two other proposals to split Illinois into two states. Here is a set of spreadsheets that I have created and are part of my analyses, which includes detailed regional breakdowns of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election results in Illinois and the 2018 Illinois Gubernatorial election, as well as apportionment tables, with population figures based on the 2010 U.S. Census, for three different scenarios involving Illinois being split into two states.
Political analysis of splitting Chicago and Greater Illinois into separate states (HR101)
If the Illinois General Assembly were to pass HR101, and Congress were to authorize the creation of a new state consisting of the City of Chicago, there would be significant effects on the national political landscape, although they may not be as favorable to Republicans as HR101’s sponsors intend. For the purposes of this analysis, I will refer to the City of Chicago as Chicago and refer to all of Illinois outside of the city of Chicago as Greater Illinois, even though Greater Illinois would be officially known as the State of Illinois and would be expected to retain Illinois’s date of admission to the Union and U.S. Senate seat classes.
To give a general idea of the expected partisan leanings of Chicago and Greater Illinois should Illinois be split into two states in accordance with the HR101 proposal, here is a table showing percentages of the vote that each candidate that received at least 0.1% of the total statewide vote received in the 2018 gubernatorial election in Illinois:
To provide more data for the analysis, here is a table showing percentages of the vote that each candidate that received at least 0.1% of the total statewide vote received in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election in Illinois:
In short, if the City of Chicago were its own state, it would be the most Democratic state in the country (although Hillary Clinton received a higher percentage of the popular vote in the District of Columbia than Chicago), whereas Greater Illinois would be a swing state that would be expected to be tightly contested. If Greater Illinois were to lean one way or the other from a partisan standpoint, it would probably lean very slightly Democratic, at least in presidential elections, with the Democratic-trending suburban areas surrounding Chicago expected to make Greater Illinois increasingly Democratic-leaning in the future. However, for at least the next couple of decades, there would be a viable path for Republicans to win Greater Illinois at the presidential and state executive levels: for example, had it not been for Sam McCann splitting the right-of-center vote, Bruce Rauner might have received more votes than J.B. Pritzker in Greater Illinois.
In regards to presidential elections, Chicago would get six electoral votes, and Greater Illinois would get 16 electoral votes. Chicago would be an ultra-stronghold for the Democrats, to put it mildly, with Republicans usually expected to get less than one-fifth of the vote in Chicago, meaning that presidential candidates probably wouldn’t campaign extensively in Chicago outside of the Democratic and Republican primaries. Greater Illinois, on the other hand, would likely receive a ton of attention from presidential candidates in the general election, as Greater Illinois would be expected to closely mirror the rest of the country in terms of partisan voting patterns in presidential elections. Had Chicago and Greater Illinois been states during the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton would have won two more electoral votes than she did in real-life, and Donald Trump would have won the same number of electoral votes that he did in real-life, which would have not been enough for Hillary to win an Electoral College majority, so Trump would have still won the presidency despite losing the national popular vote. However, had Trump won Greater Illinois, Hillary would have received 14 fewer electoral votes, and Trump would have received 16 more electoral votes, than in real-life, so, if Greater Illinois undergoes a political shift to the GOP’s benefit, the GOP would have an easier time winning the presidency if Chicago were not part of Illinois.
In regards to the U.S. Senate, Chicago would almost certainly send two Democrats to the U.S. Senate, whereas both of Greater Illinois’s Senate seats would be seriously contested by both major parties. Although Chicago would be the new state and would represent the 101st and 102nd Senate seats added to the chamber (Chicago would have a Class 1 Senator and a Class 2 Senator), the Senate seats in Greater Illinois, which would retain Illinois’s Class 2 and Class 3 Senate seats, would not only be seriously contested by both major parties every time one of them is up for election, but they could be pivotal to deciding which party wins a majority of seats in the Senate. If Chicago and Greater Illinois sent two Democrats each to the Senate, Republicans would still control the Senate, but at a narrower 53-49 majority, counting independents from Vermont and Maine who caucus with the Democrats as Democrats, instead of the real-life 53-47 majority that Republicans currently enjoy. However, if Republicans were to hold both of Greater Illinois’s Senate seats, Democrats were to hold both of Chicago’s Senate seats, and every other Senate seat were to be held by the party that currently holds it, the Republican majority in the Senate would expand to 55-47.
In regards to the U.S. House, Chicago would be apportioned four U.S. House seats, and Greater Illinois would be apportioned 14 U.S. House seats. No other state would gain or lose a House seat. Currently, none of Illinois’s real-life Congressional districts are entirely within the City of Chicago, with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Congressional districts all containing part of the City of Chicago and part of Greater Illinois, although there aren’t any permanent residents in the portion of the 8th Congressional District that is within Chicago city limits. As a result, there would be a significant redrawing of Congressional district boundaries in the Chicago metropolitan area. Chicago would almost certainly send an all-Democratic delegation to the U.S. House, as it would be virtually impossible to attempt to draw a district entirely within Chicago that would favor a Republican candidate. The Cook County suburbs and the Collar Counties combined would have enough population for seven congressional districts entirely within that area, with an additional congressional district containing a little less than a quarter of its population in the Collar Counties and most of its population downstate. Depending on which political party gets control of the redistricting process in Greater Illinois, there would be a potentially as much as a 4 or 5 seat swing towards one party or another just based on control of the redistricting process, so the U.S. House is one area where Republicans could benefit from removing Chicago from Illinois.
In regards to state legislatures, I will assume that, for the purposes of this analysis, Chicago’s 50-seat city council would become a unicameral state legislature for Chicago (which would be only the second unicameral state legislature in the country; the only current real-life unicameral state legislature is the Nebraska Legislature) and that Greater Illinois would retain the bicameral Illinois General Assembly with its 59 state senators and 118 state representatives. In Chicago, Democrats would have an opportunity to win every single seat in a Chicago state legislature, as Republicans would have difficulty winning even as much as two state legislative seats in Chicago, with any realistic Republican opportunities of winning state legislative seats being in the northwestern corner of the city. As a result, ideological divisions among Chicago Democrats would be more significant than ideological divisions between Democrats and Republicans in regards to the politics of a would-be Chicago state. In Greater Illinois, each legislative (i.e., state senate) district would have to lose approximately 45,688 voters due to Chicago becoming a state onto itself (remember that each legislative district is divided into two representative (i.e., state representative) districts), and districts partially or entirely within Chicago in real-life would have to be relocated outside of Chicago. This would give Republicans at least an opportunity to win control of one or both houses of the General Assembly, and this is the primary reason why the Republicans who support HB101 are pushing the legislation in the first place. Republicans don’t have a realistic path to winning a majority of seats in either chamber of the Illinois General Assembly with Chicago as part of Illinois, even if the legislative and representative districts were not gerrymandered in favor of any political party (the current legislative and representative districts in Illinois were gerrymandered by a Democratic-controlled General Assembly), but, if Chicago was granted statehood as a state in its own right, Republicans would have a realistic path to state legislative majorities, especially if they gerrymandered the districts in their favor.
Long story short, there is definitely potential for Republicans to benefit electorally if Chicago and Greater Illinois are split into separate states. However, if Greater Illinois becomes a Democratic-leaning state due to political and demographic trends, the plan by the far-right Republicans to expel Chicago from Illinois could end up being a net electoral benefit for Democrats, especially in regards to the U.S. Senate. Republicans would essentially be betting on political trends in favor of Republicans in central and southern Illinois more than cancelling out political trends in favor of Democrats in the suburbs around Chicago, which is actually a very risky proposition for Republicans.