DIVIDING ILLINOIS: What would happen if Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois became separate states?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post is the third 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. You can view the previous blog post in the series here.


Political analysis of splitting Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois into separate states

Historically, proposals to divide Illinois into two states, mainly supported by far-right Republicans from outside the Chicago metropolitan area, have involved expelling either the City of Chicago or Cook County from the rest of the state.

However, the Chicago metropolitan area extends a long ways beyond Chicago itself or Cook County, with varying definitions of what one considers to be the Chicago metropolitan area, or Chicagoland. For the purposes of this blog post, I have chosen to define Chicagoland as including all of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties in Illinois, and I will analyze what would happen in the extremely unlikely scenario that Chicagoland were to become a separate state from Downstate Illinois.

To give you a general idea of what would happen if Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois became separate states, here are two tables, the first of which provides the percentages that each candidate who received at least 0.1% of the statewide vote in the 2018 election for Governor of Illinois received in Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois, and the second of which provides the percentages that each candidate who received at least 0.1% of the Illinois statewide vote in the 2016 election for President of the United States received in Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois (spreadsheet here):

PritzkerRaunerJacksonMcCann
DemRepLibCon
Chicagoland62.68%32.69%2.15%2.48%
Downstate Illinois40.12%49.68%2.87%7.33%
ClintonTrumpJohnsonSteinMcMullin
DemRepLibGrnInd (W/I)
Chicagoland66.30%28.85%3.42%1.46%0.18%
Downstate Illinois37.53%56.15%4.42%1.25%0.27%

As one can easily tell, Chicagoland would be a strongly Democratic state, comparable to, for example, New York, California, and Maryland, albeit less rural than all three of those states, whereas Downstate Illinois would be a strongly Republican state, not unlike neighboring Indiana and Missouri.

In regards to the Electoral College, Chicagoland would get 14 electoral votes, and Downstate Illinois would get seven electoral votes. As Chicagoland would be expected to be a strongly Democratic state, and Downstate Illinois would be expected to be a strongly Republican state, had Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois been separate states in 2016, that would have resulted in the number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency outright from 270 to 271, Hillary Clinton getting six fewer electoral votes than she did in real-life 2016, and Donald Trump getting eight more electoral votes than he did in real-life 2016. While splitting Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois into separate states would have not resulted in a different winner of the 2016 presidential election, it would make a Republican path to an Electoral College majority easier.

In regards to the U.S. Senate, splitting Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois would likely result in a net gain of two U.S. Senate seats for the Republicans, as Chicagoland would be expected to elect two Democrats to the U.S. Senate, whereas Downstate Illinois would be expected to elect two Republicans to the U.S. Senate. In regards to the U.S. House, Chicagoland would be apportioned 12 U.S. House seats, with Downstate Illinois being apportioned six U.S. House seats. Particularly if Democrats were able to gerrymander Chicagoland’s congressional districts, and Republicans were able to gerrymander Downstate Illinois’s congressional districts, it would not be unthinkable for Chicagoland to send an all-Democratic delegation, and Downstate Illinois to send an all-Republican delegation, to the House. In regards to state legislatures, Chicagoland would likely elect a supermajority Democratic state legislature, and Downstate Illinois would likely elect a supermajority Republican state legislature.

Long story short, splitting Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois into two states would be a net political benefit for Republicans.

Conclusion of the Series

In this three-part series, I have detailed three different proposals to split the current State of Illinois into two states. The first one involved expelling the City of Chicago from the rest of the state. The second one involved expelling Cook County from the rest of the state. The third one involved expelling a six-county area consisting of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties from the rest of the state. The second and third proposals would provide a clear electoral benefit for Republicans, while the first one, while supported by several Republican legislators in the current Illinois General Assembly and clearly intended to politically benefit Republicans, could potentially be a net political benefit for Democrats if political trends favoring Democrats in the suburbs around Chicago outweigh political trends favoring Republicans outside the Chicago metropolitan area.

Due to the political risk of splitting Illinois into multiple states potentially being a net political benefit for Republicans, I do not support any proposal to split Illinois into multiple states.