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Good Question: Can A State Secede From The Union?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's an extreme version of taking your ball and going home -- more than 700,000 signatures have appeared on 50 petitions from each state calling to secede from the union.

Texas has more than 100,000 signatures on a petition site set up by the White House. The administration promised to respond to all petitions that get more than 25,000 signatures. Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennesse, and North Carolina are all over the threshold.

But can a state really secede from the United States?

"The simple answer is no," said professor Rob Vischer, the incoming Dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Law. "The Constitution does not address the question, but the Supreme Court has consistently interpreted the Constitution to have created a union that is in their words, indestructible."

There is a history of secession in the United States. South Carolina pulled out of the union and started the Civil War in 1861. Texas seceded twice: first from Mexico, then again to join the Confederacy.

"The Civil War made plain that when it comes to secession, it's really going to be about brute force," Vischer said.

Practically speaking, allowing states to secede according to political whim would be chaotic, he said.

"There are certain background premises that make our system of government possible, and one of them is the union is permanent," Vischer said.

There is a petition for Minnesota to secede, but it's not really catching on so far. It has around 4,000 signatures. Even the 100,000 signatures on the Texas petition is a small percentage of the nearly 8 million votes cast in the presidential election.

"It's important to note these petitions aren't coming from state legislatures, they're not coming from governors, they're just coming from private citizens -- and a miniscule percentage of citizens in every state," Vischer said.

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