Why it’s a Win-Win… Legislators Now Asking to Add Western Maryland Counties to WV

On October 21, 2021, five Maryland state legislators (a senator and 4 delegates) published open letters to West Virginia legislators asking the state to annex three counties they represent in western Maryland. Every single state legislator who represents the westernmost two counties signed.

Moving the Maryland / West Virginia border to add these counties to West Virginia would increase the average income of EACH state by more than 1%.  This is simply because the three counties have a lower income than Maryland (so leaving makes Maryland richer), but a higher income than WV (so joining makes WV richer). 

Of course, the three counties would be joining a poorer state, but the policies of West Virginia are better suited for rural economies and rural (traditional) values. The economy of these counties would improve freed of state regulations, unfunded mandates, and taxes. Cost of living would decrease because West Virginia has less demanding laws and regulations on home building and businesses.

In the table below, we show income data we tabulated from US government BEA data.

All three counties vote very conservative, like West Virginia, but unlike Maryland. This shows that they would prefer to have the governance of a conservative state. These counties would increase the population of WV by 14 percent, but as you can see in the table, West Virginia’s voting pattern would be changed by about half a percent.  Maryland would become more supportive of Democrats by about 1.2 percent, while losing 4 percent of its population.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said it was obvious why the counties would want to join his state, pointing to its staunch support for the coal and natural gas industry (Maryland bans fracking, which hurts western Maryland), gun rights, and pro-life law. “We’re absolutely standing here with open arms,” the governor said. “We’d welcome, absolutely, these counties and be tickled to death to have them.”

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Maryland has a ridiculous shape for historical reasons, not for reasons of good governance. It’s shameful that Baltimore has chosen to maintain jurisdiction over these counties on the other side of a mountain range, despite being contiguous with the counties only because of a panhandle of land that’s less than 2 miles wide at one point. The mountain valleys cut from the southwest to the northeast, so western Marylanders naturally interact with far more people from neighboring counties of WV and Pennsylvannia than from other counties of Maryland.

West Virginia Speaker of the House of Delegates Pro Tempore Gary Howell yesterday spoke in favor of adding these counties to West Virginia, and in 2020 he helped bills through the Senate and through House committees in favor of adding Virginia counties to WV.  The 2020 progress seems to have halted only because there was a lack of enthusiasm from Virginian counties on joining WV, despite Jerry Falwell Jr’s entreaties, as well as the governor of WV’s support. Perhaps Virginians haven’t given up on turning their state red, but Marylanders have certainly given up.  The movement to split Maryland was very active in 2013.

If you favor the idea of moving the Maryland / West Virginia state line, join this Facebook group and follow Gary Howell’s Facebook.  Share our substack article.  Contact the delegates and senators in those counties to counteract the criticism they are getting. Contact the ones who didn’t sign. And contact West Virginia delegates asking them to move legislation like they did for Virginia last year.  See if you can organize a county referendum or petition in western Maryland. Write op-eds or letters to the editor for local or state papers. Make memes.

But the most important thing is to do a non-binding county referendum on this issue. Prove the level of popular support before going to the Maryland Legislature. This will provide much-needed momentum, and make Annapolis look like it is holding these counties hostage. A couple people need to get together to create a political action committee so that they can accept donations for a campaign budget for the referendum. Information on Maryland county referendums is here.

This proposal 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 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 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.”  These interstate compacts are constitutional according to Article 1, section 10 of the US Constitution. See link: http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?&article=1544&context=penn_law_review

The most recent example was in 1999, when Congress approved an interstate compact between Missouri and Nebraska which exchanged farmland along the banks of certain stretches of the Missouri River (cf. https://ballotpedia.org/Missouri-Nebraska_Boundary_Compact)

Additionally, in 1961, land was transferred from Minnesota to North Dakota. Cf. www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/1961/0/Session+Law/Chapter/236/pdf

West Virginia was admitted to the Union in June 1863.  The Virginia/West Virginia border was moved in August 1863 to annex Berkeley County to West Virginia, and then again in November 1863 to annex Jefferson County. 

The Democratic Party has a strong majority in the Maryland Assembly, and can be expected to be in favor of strengthening the position of their party in their state by letting 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.

5 thoughts on “Why it’s a Win-Win… Legislators Now Asking to Add Western Maryland Counties to WV

  1. This is a tremendous opportunity for WV.
    If I was in a county (in Michigan) that was flaming red and bordered IN state I would push for annexation from MI to IN in a heart beat. If there is ever a Red State Secession that occurred, my husband and I would relocate to a pro Red State!

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