State Watch

Legislators want three counties to secede Maryland for West Virginia

State legislators in three conservative western Maryland counties are seeking permission to secede from the state to join neighboring West Virginia.

In letters to West Virginia state House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R) and Senate President Craig Blair (R), six Republican Maryland state legislators who represent Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties asked the legislature to consider adding their residents to the Mountaineer State.

“We believe this arrangement may be mutually beneficial for both states and for our local constituencies,” the identical letters read. “Please advise on next steps.”

Garrett and Allegany counties are west of the West Virginia panhandle. Washington County, home of Hagerstown, is north of Martinsburg, W.Va.

All three counties are far more conservative than Maryland as a whole. President Biden won 65.3 percent of the vote in Maryland, and just 21 percent in Garrett County, 30 percent in Allegany and 38 percent in Washington County.

The counties are represented in Congress by Rep. David Trone (D) after a Democratic-engineered gerrymander in the 2010 redistricting cycle drew then-Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) out of what had long been a Republican-held seat.

The proposal is all but certain to go nowhere: It would require consent from the Maryland General Assembly, which is unlikely to willingly surrender territory and constituents; a formal deal struck between Maryland and West Virginia; and the approval of the U.S. Congress.

Congress has only granted approval to change state boundaries on three occasions: In 1792, when Kentucky was carved out of what was then Virginia; in 1820, when it cleaved what became Maine off of Massachusetts; and in 1863, when it admitted counties that had once been a part of Virginia into the Union as West Virginia.

But the request is by no means unique: Counties in about half the states have sought, at one point or another, to leave their home states. In recent years, conservative rural counties in states like Washington, Oregon and California have sought to join neighboring states or carve out a new one of their own; voters in five Oregon counties voted for nonbinding resolutions seeking to join Idaho.

It is unusual, though, for state legislators, rather than county officials, to sign onto a formal request to leave. Among the signers of the letter to West Virginia officials is Delegate Jason Buckel (R), the minority leader of the Maryland General Assembly.

Tags David Trone Joe Biden Maryland succession West Virginia

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