AG Raoul Issues Opinion on Illinois Secession in Request By Jersey County SA

By Benjamin Cox on November 2, 2023 at 10:23pm

One Illinois county has been told by the Attorney General’s Office that seceding is not an option.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jersey County State’s Attorney Ben Goetten was asked by the Jersey County Board to issue a letter to the Illinois Attorney General Office’s to seek a formal opinion on whether a county could secede from the state and either create their own state or join a neighboring state. 

According to the report, Goetten believed secession to be a non-starter but issued the letter at the wishes of the county board.

Writing in an Oct. 17 opinion, Attorney General Kwame Raoul said the state constitution does not provide a statutory procedure for the secession of counties from the state, and that there are also federal issues that stand in the way, too. 

According to the 10-page letter issued by Raoul, he called a state’s sovereignty over its territory fundamental to the federal system of government, centered in the U.S. Constitution. 

Jersey County, along with others in downstate Illinois, have been investigating ways to break the state into two pieces since the 2020 Presidential election. President Joe Biden won Illinois’ electoral votes over former President Donald Trump in 2020, despite only 13 of the state’s 102 counties voting Democratic. The state’s executive offices, U.S. Senate seats, and the majority in the General Assembly are also all held by Democrats. 

District 2 Jersey County Board member Eric Ivers asked the board to discuss a referendum for secession in 2021, to explore ways for Jersey County to leave Illinois and join the State of Missouri. The board tabled the measure but the idea was pursued. 

As of last year, 27 counties in the state had placed non-binding resolutions on the ballot to secede from the state of Illinois. The majority of the states are in southeastern Illinois, with Hancock and Brown counties as the lone exceptions.

Goetten told the Post Dispatch on Thursday, that while he preferred that his name stay off the letter requesting Raoul’s opinion, he still wanted to get it issued to put the issue to bed. Goetten also said he agreed with the Attorney General’s opinion on the issue.