Several Republican state legislators have requested permission for their counties to secede from Maryland and join West Virginia, arguing that “it would be beneficial for both our states and for our local constituencies.”
The letters, sent from conservative members of Maryland’s House of Delegates and state Senate, were addressed to West Virginia Speaker Roger Hanshaw and Senate President Craig Blair.
The representatives, from Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties, all in western Maryland, asked leadership in West Virginia to “consider adding us as constituent counties to the State of West Virginia.”
“We believe this arrangement may be mutually beneficial for both states and for our local constituencies. Please advise on next steps,” the letters said.
Letters asking for the counties to be absorbed into West Virginia were sent on October 5 by Maryland Delegate William Wivell and Del. Mike McKay. Later, identical letters were sent on October 14 by Senator George Edwards, Del. Wendell Beitzel, and Del. Jason Buckel.
The counties all went heavy for Trump in 2020, with him winning 77% in Garrett County, 68.5% in Allegany, and 59% in Washington County. Biden won the state as a whole with 65% of the vote.
“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 Hill reported.
Buckel, who is the minority leader of Maryland’s House of Delegates, has long said that much of the state is out of touch with his constituents.
“Some of the stuff they come up with is pretty darn far left and it seems pretty far out of step with the communities in Maryland. I’m happy to be the leader of the group that will push back against that,” he said when first becoming minority leader.
McKay said that the counties could potentially be asked to vote on whether they would support the move through a non-binding referendum in 2022, according to The Baltimore Sun.
“First you have to knock on the door and see if the person is willing to answer before we can discuss how it would work out,” McKay said in reference to the letters to West Virginia.
Several of the lawmakers said that their constituents had asked about the possibility of leaving Maryland proper before, and maybe forming their own state. Issues many were concerned with included fracking, guns, and taxes.
“Over the years different people have come to us asking either for that or to form their own state,” Del. Wivell said, “and I just don’t think it’s potentially feasible to form your own ‘West Maryland.’”
Del. Neil Parrott, although he did not sign the letter, agreed with the idea of breaking away from Maryland.
He said as Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s term expires, “we’ve seen a return in the General Assembly to a war on rural Maryland. They’re just not listening, and they’re not caring about the needs of Western Maryland.”
On a national level, there have been increasing discussions of various regions of the country, like parts of Oregon and California, breaking off and joining or forming other states. However, the efforts face difficult odds.
In Maryland, the counties would need the Maryland General Assembly, both Maryland and West Virginia to agree, and Congress to all sign off on the break up.
A previous version of this article imprecisely stated that the regional efforts to change state borders have stalled. Although the efforts face difficult odds, some are still ongoing.