3 Md. Counties Want to Defect. This Governor Has 'Open Arms'

W. Va.'s Jim Justice says his state would welcome Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2021 8:45 AM CDT
W. Va Governor to Md. Counties: Sure, Come Join Our State
In this March 12, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a news conference in Charleston, W.Va.   (F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP, File)

West Virginia must just have something that Maryland doesn't. Three counties in the latter state are now vying to join the former, and West Virginia's governor is all for it. WSAZ reports that lawmakers from Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties—located in the most western part of Maryland, which hovers over West Virginia—have sent a letter to the Mountain State requesting they be absorbed in. "The western areas of the state feel they're being shortchanged in a lot of respects, and we had a lot of constituents approaching us ... saying, 'Why can't we just join West Virginia?'" Maryland State Delegate Wendell Beitzel, one of the letter's signees, tells the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. "It's just that simple."

It's also that simple for West Virginia's Republican governor, Jim Justice, who seems keen on the idea, per CNN. "Absolutely, without any question, the invitation is wide open," he said Friday of the ask by the counties, which have a combined 250,000 or so people living within their borders. "We want everyone to always know that we're absolutely standing here with open arms, we welcome these counties and would be tickled to death to have them."

CNN notes such border shifts are "exceedingly rare," and even Beitzel concedes it's a long shot. First, the OK has to be given from West Virginia; that box has now been checked. After that, it has to be gauged if the constituents of those three counties are into the idea, via a 2022 ballot referendum, followed by a majority vote in the Maryland General Assembly OKing the move. That vote would then need to be followed by one in Congress. "It would be very difficult to accomplish that," Beitzel acknowledges to the News and Sentinel. "It's a long process." (Read more Maryland stories.)

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