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Daily Journal
     June 4, 2021      #94-155 KDJ

Do we need more states? 

By Dennis Marek

In 1912, both Arizona and New Mexico were admitted to the Union of the United States of America making the 48 states. The flag was redesigned to accommodate 48 stars. It was easy with six rows each having eight stars. The nation went through two world wars with that flag. Then, there was pressure to admit territories as states. In January 1959, Alaska was made a state and the flag was easy to amend, seven rows of seven stars. But within eight months, Hawaii was admitted to the Union, and the flag now needed 50 stars. The present arrangement has five rows of six stars and in-between those five rows are four shorter rows of five stars. Our math is right: five times six is 30, and four times five is 20.

But with the admission of more states, other matters change. Each was allowed two senators and, based upon population, Alaska received one representative and Hawaii two. This increased the number of seats in the Senate enlarging the overall total number, but the House did not. By the Apportionment Act of 1911, the number of total seats was set at 433 and then allocated by population. In 1913, after the admission of Arizona and New Mexico, that number was raised to 435, the present number. In 1929, Congress passed the Reapportionment Act, which fixed the number of seats in the House at the 435, so the admission of Hawaii and Alaska added no seats, but did deprive the first 48 states of three members allotted to the two new states based upon the laws of apportionment.

You may wonder about the reason to bring up the foregoing, but it has bearing today on two separate bases. The first is the thought of dividing a populace state, such as a North and South California. The diversity between those two halves has long been recognized. Another reason is Illinois Rep. Brad Halbrook has for years filed resolutions at the Statehouse to create a new state out of all the counties but Cook, making Illinois into two states.

At the same time, there is a national proposal filed by Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, to make the District of Columbia a state. Along the way, there have been interests arising to make Puerto Rico a state.

So are any of these ideas and bills supported by the populous? Citizens of D.C. have no senators. They have a “representative” who can attend the House proceedings, but has no vote. In Illinois, there have been items on ballots to show support or resistance of such a move in the state. Almost 30 counties have “passed” the idea with an average of around 70% in favor of the division.

But let’s look at the possible results of such divisions and/or inclusions of a territory as a new state. Most do not know this, but the U.S. has five territories, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Mariana Islands and American Samoa. Do we include all territories in such a move, or count them as one? Bringing them in separately could result in 10 more senators and dilute the present House apportionment by at least five.

Let’s come back to Illinois. Illinois is all about politics. Cook is heavily Democratic; downstate generally Republican. Cook County has about 5 million people while Illinois without Cook has over 7 million. A split would give the people of the former state two more senators, while the representatives would be reapportioned with downstate having more than Cook. California would experience a similar increase in senators and a division of seats in the House.

Who does that please and who would be totally opposed to such an idea? Clearly for Illinois, Cook could not dominate the downstaters as is often the case now. But Democrats and Republicans have even fought over the Illinois Supreme Court composition. Downstate support defeated Justice Thomas Kilbride’s retention election on the theory that as a downstate Democrat, he might vote with the three Chicago Justices and thereby reach decisions more favorable to Cook County people. Think about the changes in the divided states’ court systems, DMVs and Secretary of State Offices, prisons, highways, schools, not to mention the effect on minorities and majorities.

The citizens of D.C. may be a different story. The population of D.C., about 750,000 people, has no say in national politics with no representation in either the House or the Senate. Yet who is closer to knowing the workings of the federal government than those who live and work there?

Do we need more states? Illinois without Chicago is more of a Nebraska or Kansas, mostly agricultural without the international side, let alone the tall buildings and great museums. California might do better if they just became their own country. They could export movies and wine, and we could ship them straight jackets.

Imagine if you split California and Illinois and then make just Puerto Rico a state. You have six more senators, but the same number of House members, split who knows how? If that is not a problem, we will need the mathematicians to figure out a new flag with 53 stars. When you are really bored, try that configuration on as your homework.

Dennis Marek can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or through his personal email at dmarek@ambltd.com.

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