This proposal is different from secession because it is simply a shift in borders that does not affect the balance of power in the US Senate. It does not create a new state or increase the number of states.
Borders between states have been relocated or redefined many times in US history. If a deal were made that two state legislatures pass, a border change would almost certainly become a reality. According to a peer-reviewed law journal, “Prior to 1921, 36 compacts between states were put into effect with the consent of Congress; virtually all of these settled boundaries between contiguous states.” See link: http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?&article=1544&context=penn_law_review
The most recent example was land transferred from Minnesota to North Dakota in 1961. www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/1961/0/Session+Law/Chapter/236/pdf
The US House of Representatives approved a state border change as recently as June 19, 2002. However, at that time the US Senate Majority Leader blocked the vote in the Senate for personal financial reasons. The deal, concerning Wendover, Utah, was approved by voters on both sides of the Utah/Nevada border.
A January 2019 poll of those categorized as “liberal” or “very liberal”, living in the blue part of a state showed that 2/3 were willing to let low-income Trump-voting counties in their state become a part of another state. Although this was an Illinois poll, we hope that a poll of Virginia would yield similar results. The poll is here: www.facebook.com/PeacefulBlueStateSecession/posts/404662573642356
The Democratic Party has a majority in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, and the governor is a Democrat. These politicians can be expected to be in favor of strengthening the position of their party in their state by letting low-income Trump-voting counties leave. They should be in favor of improving their state finances by allowing the departure of counties that don’t pay their share of income and sales taxes because of lower incomes.
It is unlikely that the Virginia General Assembly would allow the creation of a new state because this would increase the number of Republicans in the US Senate, and add 2 Republican electoral votes to presidential elections. Even Congress is unlikely to approve the creation of a new state, even when it is controlled by Republicans. From the point of view of US Senators, giving extra senators to every state that is willing to become multiple states is a dangerous precedent that would weaken the voice of their own state. This is all the more dangerous today, when progressives are looking for ways to ameliorate their disadvantage in the electoral college.
This proposal presents three good options for Virginia to move its borders to put conservative counties on the other side of their borders. Option one is moving the West Virginia border. Option 2 is moving the Kentucky border. Option 3 is moving the Tennessee border.
If you favor one of the ideas in this proposal, please read the section of this proposal on Next Steps. We need your help to spread the word about this idea; please join these Facebook groups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/793223164446214/
Option One: Greater West Virginia
The territory that we propose removing from Virginia has only 13% of the population of Virginia. The population governed from Charleston, West Virginia, would increase by 62%. West Virginia government would gain economies of scale, as the new population would be almost half the population of the average state.
Western Virginians wish to be under red-state law. These areas in the 2016 presidential election gave 2.60 votes to Trump for every Hillary vote.
Why the Virginia General Assembly should want to move the border
Financial Reasons: After the border change, the remainder of Virginia would have an annual per capita personal income (2018 BEA) $2363 higher than Virginia’s is. This would allow Virginia taxes to be decreased so that the average Virginia wage earner would save $394 in taxes annually, assuming a marginal tax rate of 10%. By letting relatively poor counties go, Virginians’ average income becomes much higher. Making the average income higher by reducing the number of poor counties in the state would not directly increase a resident’s income, but it would help the state government’s finances to the point that the state could reduce tax rates, or at least reduce the budget deficit. This effect is very large and would pay off every year.
The loss of a large amount of land should not concern the state legislature because there is no state property tax. A state legislature cares about the per capita or per household income of an area because this indicates whether this area is a net contributor or net drain on the state government’s budget. State government revenue comes almost entirely from income taxes and sales tax. Corporate taxes are a very small part of state revenues. As far as the state budget is concerned, people and their incomes matter, not land area. The only thing Virginians have to lose is the satisfaction of seeing a such a large footprint when they look at a map.
Virginia counties would need to agree to take their share of their state debt as they depart the state. These debts and unfunded liabilities are already owed by each citizen of these states, so it is not really a cost of the border change.
Virginia is counting on its current population to pay the pensions for state employees that have already been obligated. Departing counties would need to agree on a scheme that would compensate Virginia for the loss of their population, by agreeing to pay into the pension fund according to a schedule. West Virginia would need to avoid forcing the new counties to pay for the portion of West Virginia state pensions that were already earned before the counties joined West Virginia.
If Virginia’s legislature is unconvinced, county governments in Virginia could offer to pay Virginia for the privilege of leaving the state.
Political Reasons: This proposal increases the power over state policy for the areas that remain in Virginia because it eliminates the political influence of the counties that leave the state. The population of Virginia would decrease 13%.
By letting conservative counties go, this deal makes the position of the Democratic Party stronger in Virginia. Its electorate would become more progressive. One way to measure the difference is to look at the most recent presidential election. In 2016, Hillary won 1.12 votes per Trump vote. If the border had been changed beforehand, she would have won 1.30.
West Virginia is one of the reddest states in the US, so there is no risk that giving West Virginia conservative counties would cause a liberal to lose a West Virginia election. In fact, Trump’s election results were better in West Virginia than any other state except Wyoming.
Republicans already represent these counties in the US House of Representatives, so this border change does not affect the balance of the US House of Representatives.
For presidential elections, there are 538 electoral votes in the country. For every 754,000 people that move from a blue state to a red state, Republicans gain one electoral vote, which is only 0.19% of 538. Since the population of the departing counties from Virginia is 1,113,000 Virginia would usually have one less electoral vote. During about one half of the upcoming decades, Virginia would have two less votes. We regard this as insignificant compared to 538 votes. The loss of electoral vote(s) would not take effect until the 2032 elections following the 2030 census.
Harmony and civility: The groups of counties changing to another state in this proposal voted very heavily for Trump. Their departure will reduce the partisanship in Virginia, by reducing the number of Trump voters, and by ending the power struggle by making elections less close. Many of the people in these counties would be likely to fight back during gun confiscations promised by Virginia governor Northam. Breathtaking laws are surely coming now that progressives have more control in the legislature. Allowing these counties to leave reduces the chance of unrest and makes these states more harmonious ideologically.
As of November 2019, dozens of counties per month are becoming sanctuary counties for gun rights.
Vote count: We envision a coalition of Democrat legislators who represent the remaining counties of Virginia with Republican legislators who represent the departing counties. This is a majority.
Why West Virginia is likely to approve this border revision
Multiple West Virginia state legislators expressed support for this idea before we even wrote this.
1) Financial: The per capita personal income in the departing counties was $1210 per year higher than in West Virginia in 2018, according to the US government (BEA). This means that the addition of these counties would increase state tax receipts per person in West Virginia. This would help the state government’s budget.
This proposal makes the tax base of West Virginia broader by increasing the land area of the state and increasing the population by 62%. If mining in one area declines, it may be increasing in another area.
The economy of West Virginia would improve under West Virginia law, regulations, and courts. The departing counties are mountainous, just like West Virginia. West Virginia law and governmental focus is suitable to mining, logging, and rural counties in general. As the economy improves, incomes and employment would increase, so that these areas would pay an increasing share of West Virginia’s taxes.
This proposal would bring thousands of jobs to West Virginia’s capitol city, and to the locations of West Virginia’s public universities and colleges. The state government would gain economies of scale, as the population would increase by 62% to 2.919 million, making it almost half the population of the average US state.
If West Virginia’s legislature is unconvinced, county governments in Virginia could offer to pay Virginia for the privilege of joining the state.
2) Political: The counties departing Virginia gave 2.60 Trump votes per Hillary vote, whereas West Virginia gave 2.59. West Virginia would have the satisfaction of freeing a million people from blue-state law. The number of state legislator seats could be increased so that districts would not need to be redrawn.
How Departing Virginia Counties Would Pay Their Share of the State Debt
Since the per capita debt of the state government of Virginia is $7281, the government of each departing county would take on its per capita share of its state debt as a part of this deal. However, because they would be as responsible as any other West Virginian for West Virginia’s $6731 per capita debt in the future after joining West Virginia, West Virginia would compensate the government of each county $6731 per capita. Departing Virginia counties would be left with a debt of $7281 – 6731 = $550 per capita which could be paid off with the issuance of county bonds, which could be paid off with a temporary county tax.
The cost of $550 should not be seen as a cost of switching governments. It is an already-existing debt that they would eventually have to pay even if they remain in Virginia.
The $6731 per capita cost to the State of West Virginia is not really a loss to the State of West Virginia, because the new West Virginian would become obligated to help pay for West Virginia pre-existing debt ($6731 per capita) in return, along with other West Virginians. It could be funded by a state bond issuance.
A Bolder Idea That We Rejected
It would be possible for North Carolina and Virginia to trade counties by moving their border. North Carolina could take most conservative Virginian counties (in the mountain and Piedmont areas), and Virginia could take most liberal North Carolinian counties (in northern NC). The capitol of NC would have to be moved. It’s a great idea, because it would put a red state on the Atlantic coast, but we doubt Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly or US Congress would be willing to make a swing state (North Carolina) more conservative. North Carolina came very close to voting for Obama in two presidential elections, and has had Democrat US senators as recently as Kay Hagan (until Jan 2015) and John Edwards (until Jan 2005). Virginia is no longer a swing state. Politics is the art of the possible, and we doubt efforts to promote this idea would accomplish the border change. For the same reason, we doubt that Virginia would move its border with North Carolina in other ways.
Option 2: Move the Kentucky State Border
Option 2 is to move the Virginia/Kentucky state line. Kentucky is not as conservative as West Virginia, so she would accept a group of counties that is less conservative, which allows us to add a few counties to the group. The population of the group of counties for Option 2 is 1,732,000, which would increase Kentucky’s population by 39%.
Kentucky had 1.91 Trump voters per Hillary voter in 2016, and this group of counties in western Virginia had 2.09. Kentucky’s 2018 per capita personal income was $42,458, compared to these counties’ $43,946. It’s not easy to find a group of counties that is rich enough and conservative enough. We are confident that no more counties could be added to this group that would make a more appealing deal for Kentucky and Virginia’s ruling political parties.
Kentucky has a greater per capita state government debt than Virginia, but it could still be handled as in Option 1 (in reverse). One concern with joining Kentucky is that it has a bigger problem with underfunded state government pensions than most states. On the other hand, this should make Kentucky eager to accept new counties.
Kentucky elected a Democrat Governor in 2019 whose term expires January 2024. He could be pressured to accept these counties if there is enough enthusiasm in Kentucky, though. Kentucky was originally a part of Virginia, and was settled by Virginians. Her laws are based on Virginia law.
Even though North Carolina is mentioned in the chart above, we don’t have hope that Virginia would move its border with North Carolina, for reasons explained above regarding Option X.
Option 3: Move the Tennessee State Border
Option 3 is to move the Virginia/Tennessee state border. Tennessee is not as conservative as Kentucky, so it would accept a group of counties that is less conservative, which allows us to add a few counties to the group. The population of the group of counties for Option 3 is 2,051,651, which adds 30% to the population of Tennessee. This is 24% of the population of Virginia. Tennessee had 1.75 Trump voters per Hillary voter, and this group of counties had 1.80 Trump voters per Hillary voter.
Tennessee’s 2018 annual per capita personal income was $46,900, compared to these counties’ $47,040. The Virginia General Assembly should like this proposal because it greatly improves the state government budget situation by increasing the per capita personal income of the state by $3414 per year. It also reduces the Trump vote in the state from 47.2% to 41.7%.
Why We Chose These Counties for Greater Tennessee:
Tennessee might be willing to take additional counties if the counties that are below average agree to annually pay an extra tax of just the right amount to make up for any shortfall they incurred on the state budget the prior year. There is one group of counties that is conservative enough to be added to Tennessee under this rule: Lynchburg, Campbell, Appomattox, and Amherst.
We are confident that no more counties could be added to this group that would make a more appealing deal for Tennessee and Virginia’s majority political parties.
Of course Amelia County and Hanover County are conservative enough as well, but they are not compact with the shape of the other counties. State governments have an interest in keeping their territory compact so that the spending they do in that county is not wasted across state lines, and their state laws and taxes are not undermined by border crossers. The Virginia General Assembly would probably not accept a plan that severs northern Virginia from southern Virginia.
Because Tennessee’s average income is rather high, there are only two ways to make the average income of the group of Virginia counties high enough to be acceptable to Tennessee. We chose to include a high-income area that votes Democrat into the Tennessee side of the border. Combined, Albermarle County and Charlottesville, Virginia had only 0.43 Trump voters per Hillary voter in 2016.
If the Virginia General Assembly and the Tennessee Legislature agree to move the border, Virginia could choose to hold a plebiscite (vote of the people) in the counties that are leaving for approval. However, the votes do not need to be added up on a per-county basis. It’s better to add all the votes together to see if the group as a whole agrees to the plan or not. This is because the area would not be acceptable to Tennessee without the high-income areas, and it wouldn’t make sense for a county in the middle of the group to remain a part of Virginia if all the counties around it are becoming a part of Tennessee.
The other way to make the average income of the group of Virginia counties high enough to be acceptable to Tennessee (without including Charlottesville) is to include conservative counties northeast of Richmond. We didn’t analyze this possibility because we don’t see why the Virginia General Assembly would willingly cede to another state the only land route from northern Virginia to southern Virginia. Also, including these counties would make the shape of Tennessee even less compact.
We need your help to spread the word about this idea; please join these Facebook groups and send your email address to the admins of these groups so that you won’t miss announcements: https://www.facebook.com/groups/793223164446214/
Share the message of this proposal by creating memes and sharing in Facebook, Facebook groups, and Instagram. This is important because legislators tend to follow public opinion rather than leading public opinion.
You can attend county fairs and other public events to publicize this with a sign, a t-shirt, brochures, or even a table. You can purchase our decal and bumper stickers for your car.
Ask your county Board of Supervisors to issue a declaration supporting this idea, such as “_____ County requests that Virginia and West Virginia negotiate the relocation of state lines such that _____ County becomes a county of West Virginia.” It’s easy to find contact information for county supervisors online. Google “_____ County Board of Supervisors”. Email them and call them individually.
Next, contact Republican state legislators in the departing counties and ask them to read this proposal and ask them to explain it to the Democrat state leadership of Virginia. Call them, send Facebook messages, email them, and ask to meet with them. You can contact more than just your own legislators. We hope that Virginia Democrat state leadership will hear about this proposal, appreciate it, and then reach out to neighboring state leadership to negotiate an interstate compact. If they negotiate a deal, they can introduce a bill in each legislature and pass it. Contacting any Democrat state legislator in Virginia might help get this idea to Oregon state leadership. You can find your Virginia state legislator here: https://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov
You can get a list of email addresses and phone numbers for Virginia State legislators here: https://virginiageneralassembly.gov
If you get a postive response, let the admins of the facebook groups know.
How we chose counties for Option 1: Greater West Virginia
We used two criteria when choosing counties. The group of counties, as a whole, needs to be at least as conservative as West Virginia’s average, so that the majority party of West Virginia’s Legislature won’t be alarmed. The group of counties also needs to have a high per capita personal income, so that it is perceived as a benefit to the state. Unfortunately, we had to leave out some counties that are conservative enough, but not rich enough, such as Patrick County. And we had to leave out some counties that are rich enough, but not conservative enough, such as Montgomery and Roanoke. Some of those counties were included in Option 2, later in this document.
The version of Option 1 that we present above is version 3, “Bedford.” Version 2, “Clarke”, did not have Bedford or Rockbridge counties. Version 1, “Greene”, had Madison and Greene Counties but not Bedford, Rockbridge, Clarke, or Rappahannock counties.
Version 3 has the highest population included in the border change, so it improves VA finances the most. In version 3, the departing counties would make Greater West Virginia 0.1 % more conservative than WV, and make it have 1.1% higher per capita personal income.
In version 2, Greater West Virginia would vote 0.1% more conservative than WV, and have 0.8% higher per capita personal income.
In version 1, Greater West Virginia would vote 0.4% more conservative than WV, and have 0.5% higher per capita personal income. We prefer to include Clarke and Greene counties, because Clarke shares a border with WV, which means that WV already has a lot of ties with that county. Also, Rappahannock County is more compact to Greater West Virginia’s shape than Madison and Greene. State governments have an interest in keeping their territory compact so that the spending they do in that county is not wasted across state lines, and their state laws and taxes are not undermined by border crossers.
There are probably no other combinations that yield a large group of counties that is both more conservative and higher income than West Virginia while maintaining a reasonably compact shape.