West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice Offers To Absorb Three Maryland Counties

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday that three western Maryland counties would be welcome to secede and join his state.

“We welcome these counties and would be tickled to death to have them and the great folks of that incredible state,” Justice said in a press release. State lawmakers representing Allegany, Garrett and Washington Counties submitted letters Thursday to West Virginia Senate President Craig Blair and State House Speaker Roger Hanshaw requesting that the West Virginia legislature approve legislation allowing them to join the state. (RELATED: Republican Maryland Lawmakers Request Secession, Ask To Join West Virginia)

Allegany, Garrett and Washington are the three of the most Republican counties in traditionally Democratic Maryland. Then-President Donald Trump won all three, putting up his two highest margin victories in Garrett and Allegany. They were represented in the House by Republican Roscoe Bartlett until 2010, when the Maryland state legislature redrew his district to include Montgomery County suburbs.

Former Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley admitted in a 2017 deposition to gerrymandering Bartlett’s district, saying that it was his “intent to create … a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican.”

“We’ve got it going on right now in West Virginia. We are knocking it out of the park. Why wouldn’t you want to come?” Justice continued. “Our state supports personal freedoms, we value the Second Amendment, and we love the rights of the unborn. We love and embrace our energy industry.”

Justice added that he would call a Special Session of the West Virginia legislature to take up the proposal. The three counties would provide a major population boost to the rural state, which lost a congressional seat following the 2020 census.

Even if West Virginia approves the merger, under the U.S. Constitution the Maryland state legislature and national Congress would also have to vote in favor of the secession. County secession has only been approved three times in U.S. history, most recently in 1863, when 48 counties broke away from Virginia to form West Virginia.