Same story, different target, long process.
Last year, the West Virginia Senate adopted a resolution encouraging Frederick County, Virginia, to become part of West Virginia. Gov. Jim Justice took it a step further and other Virginia counties to move over to the Mountain State. That went nowhere, as apparently people in that part of Virginia preferred remaining part of that state.
Now the roles have reversed. Four legislators from Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties in the westernmost part of Maryland have asked West Virginia to consider annexing them.
“We believe this arrangement may be mutually beneficial for both states and for our local constituencies,” the Maryland lawmakers, all Republicans, wrote in letters to West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, and Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, as first reported by The Baltimore Sun.
Combined, the three counties have more than 250,000 people, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
West Virginia Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, said he first heard from Western Maryland representatives expressing interest in seceding their counties from Maryland about three months ago, according to HD Media reporter Lacie Pierson.
“From the general population perspective, these are very conservative counties,” Howell said. “These counties have more in common with West Virginia than they do with the rest of Maryland.”
About a month ago, Howell, Hanshaw and Blair met with the Maryland lawmakers in Charleston, where there was a four-hour presentation about everything from tax structure and how Maryland licenses would be incorporated into West Virginia’s systems to how state of Maryland employees would transition to state of West Virginia employees.
“We’d have to work out a lot of this in detail,” Howell told Pierson on Thursday. “We gave the presentation. They took it back, and they said, ‘Hey, we’re going to send you a letter formally requesting to explore the idea,’ and they did. It was all initiated by them.”
Moving counties from one state to another is a long process involving the legislatures of both states and Congress. The process is so long there’s a good chance it would outlast the terms in office of the people initiating it, meaning it would need significant public support to be anything more than a diversion.
If the 250,000 people of western Maryland weigh the costs and benefits of switching states and truly want to join West Virginia, then it could be done. That part of Maryland is more conservative and voters feel dominated by the progressive majority in their state’s legislature. West Virginia might be a better fit for it now, but things can change in a generation or two. Moving counties from one state to another is a drastic step that should not be taken lightly, which is why the people who wrote the Constitution were wise to make it so complicated. The alternative would be a map of state boundaries that changes as chaotic as the map of Europe was in the 20th century.