Group pushing segregation from Illinois says Madison County is prime target

Brian Munoz/St.louis public radio

Lori Fuller began considering leaving Illinois in 2019 when state legislators doubled the gas tax.

“A lot of people started getting really angry,” said Fuller, a retired high school English teacher.

Fuller, who lives in Highland, is one of five locals who volunteered to collect signatures on an iconic petition to fill out the Illinois ballot. According to Fuller, this is a difficult but worthwhile move for everyone.

“If we move away from that, people in Chicago can get what they want,” she said. can do.”

Madison County has become an important target for Illinoisans who want to secede to escape the political influence of Chicago and its neighboring counties. In the state, he said that if he could persuade Madison County, the eighth most populous county, to move out, he could send a strong signal to the state legislators who would ultimately decide the fate of the next step in Illinois’ separatist movement. person is thinking

“Madison County is probably my number one priority because I feel like it’s the jewel in the crown of Southern Illinois,” said current candidate Loretto Newlin. illinois separatist referendum.

In this past election, two townships in the northeast corner of the county, Reef and New Douglas, passed non-binding referendums. Like the votes that approved such referendums in the other 26 counties, these are symbolic and have no real power, but send a signal that the movement should continue. .

“If most of the state’s geographic areas indicate they want to consider segregation, we can take the next step,” Newlin said. It can be used to inform and attempt to persuade elected officials.”

A native of rural Jasper County in southeastern Illinois, Newlin is a massage therapist by profession. She became involved in the Segregation Illinois movement in February 2019 after becoming frustrated with the direction of the state legislature, and she said many factors motivated her to pursue secession.

“We’re in Podunk, Illinois, Southern Illinois, and we’re looked down upon by the people of Chicago,” she said. “I just got some really ugly things said to me by someone who lives in Chicago and I feel superior.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time rural parts of the state have brought up the idea of ​​secession from Illinois. 2019, State Rep. Brad Halbrook helped lead the movement It had similar goals and introduced legislation that ultimately failed.

John JacksonA visiting professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale said he first heard the idea of ​​secession in 1972.

“It’s stronger, it’s more ingrained, and it’s now more aligned with our two political parties,” he said.

Madison County was home to the Democratic Party when Jackson moved to the area from Arkansas. Now the county is getting redder and redder with each election, he said.

“There has been a dizzying shift in party identification in this space,” Jackson said, adding that Southern Illinois followed the American South in its march from Democrat to Republican.

Newlyn’s goal is to have new referendums in 80 county ballots by 2024. Even if all those counties voted in favor of secession, Jackson believes it’s going nowhere because both the Illinois legislature and the legislature would need to approve it.

“U.S. Congress has no intention of doing this,” he said. “They’re not going to start dividing states. That’s not going to happen anytime.”

Newlin disagrees. She’s also starting to get interest in her from people living in Peoria and Rock Island counties, she said.

Counties that passed segregation referendums will have a total population of 476,964, according to this year’s U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Madison County, with a population of 264,490, would be a great addition.

“It’s going to be a big feather on our cap,” Fuller said.

But the rest of Madison needs more signatures compared to the smaller townships that voted in 2022. For example, Fuller said he would need more than 1,000 signatures for the townships of Edwardsville and Collinsville to issue votes.

When petition organizers wanted to collect signatures in Madison County, COVID is making it difficult for in-person events, Fuller said. Now with less COVID concerns, she said, the rest of the county could be more viable. increase.

“It’s very rare that someone refuses to sign a petition,” Fuller said. “Everyone agrees with that.” Group pushing segregation from Illinois says Madison County is prime target

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