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Five Lawmakers Want Three Western Maryland Counties To Join West Virginia

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Five Republican lawmakers from Maryland's three westernmost counties have sent letters to West Virginia legislative leaders asking if the state would consider adding their jurisdictions.

Lawmakers from Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties, all bordering West Virginia, signed the letters, which both say that seceding from Maryland and joining West Virginia would be "mutually beneficial for both states and for our local constituencies."

In a news release with the letters, Washington County Del. William Wivell's office said, "This letter is generated as a result of various constituent requests over the years."

Dels. Wivell (District 2A) and Mike McKay (District 1C) signed one letter on behalf of Washington County, and Dels. Jason Buckel (District 1B), Wendell Beitzel (District 1A) and McKay, and Sen. George Edwards (District 1), signed another letter on behalf of Allegany and Garrett counties.

None of the signatories immediately returned a request for comment from WJZ.

Both letters were sent to West Virginia Senate President Craig Blair (R) and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R).

A spokesperson for Hanshaw confirmed the speaker had received both copies.

"The speaker has said this is an introductory step in what would be a somewhat lengthy process," said Ann Ali, director of communications for Hanshaw. "He also has said he would recognize any border counties that recognize West Virginia's role in the growing part of our nation's economy and that we have the greatest quality of life in the country."

In response to questions from WJZ, Blair released a statement saying he would welcome the three Maryland counties into West Virginia.

Citing a declining unemployment rate, a growing GDP and a recent $1 billion investment in broadband, Blair touted West Virginia's growth.

"This request is recognition of the work we have done to transform the state, and I welcome my friends and neighbors across the border in Maryland to join us as we keep moving forward," he said. "With everything we offer, who wouldn't want to live here?"

In 2020, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) made a pitch to conservative counties in Virginia to break away and join his state, according to The Washington Post.

"We're a loving, good people. Faith-based people. People that really know the difference between right and wrong. … If you're not truly happy where you are, we stand with open arms to take you from Virginia," Justice said last year.

The state is not without its issues. According to the most recent Census, West Virginia saw the steepest population drop in the country. West Virginia has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, with 1 in 5 children living in poverty, according to 2019 data compiled by the USDA.

County-level secession movements are not a novel idea. In fact, those three Maryland counties were named in a previous secessionist effort nearly a decade ago.

As WTOP reports, a grassroots secessionist group rallied support for an unsuccessful plan that would have seen Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties leave Maryland to form a new state, which would've been dubbed Western Maryland.

Rural counties in Oregon have pitched the idea of becoming part of Idaho, and a group of counties in Colorado wants to join up with Wyoming.

West Virginia was in fact founded by counties that broke away from Virginia after it seceded from the Union at the outset of the Civil War.

According to Article IV, Section 3, of the U.S. Constitution, no new state can be formed within the jurisdiction of another state, or by joining parts of states, "without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."

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