Maryland Counties Latest to Consider Secession from Their State

Citizens in five counties located in western Maryland are the latest to express a desire to secede from their state because they believe the state government does not represent their views properly.

In the case of Maryland, those five western counties are predominantly conservative and therefore generally vote for Republican representatives.  However,  a majority of the state is more liberal leaning, which is why the majority of Maryland state legislators are Democrats.  Likewise, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is a Democrat.

As a result, citizens of those conservative counties are largely against recent changes enacted by the Democrat-controlled state leadership.  These changes include increases in tax levels and stricter gun control laws.

Maryland Secession Based on Grassroots Effort

Scott Strzelczyk is considered the leader of the secession effort in western Maryland.  The effort started with a Facebook page created by Strzelczyk in July called Western Maryland: A New State Initiative.

Although the Facebook page only has approximately 3,800 followers as of September, the movement has gained attention of the national media and has given Strzelczyk a platform to voice the beliefs of those backing the movement.

“We are tired of this,” said Strzelczyk on National Public Radio.  “We have had enough.”

In addition to the organization’s concerns about taxes and gun control laws, the state-controlled legislature has drawn up districts so that the metropolitan areas have greater representation, leaving the western counties little chance of opposing further actions in these areas.

One of Many Secession Efforts Across Country

The secession idea of Maryland’s western counties is not a new one.  Counties in the northern portions of Michigan, California, and Colorado likewise have similar movements underway.  Each of those states are predominantly Democrat-controlled, with conservative pockets looking for alternatives.

However, the matter is not strictly a conservative one.  Democrats in southern Florida and western Arizona, which have Republican controlled legislatures, are likewise looking at secession to get away from the primarily conservative decisions of their state leadership.

“This is about folks who just do not believe they are being represented, whether it’s Democrats and Republicans,” noted Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St Mary’s College.

What Would Secession Really Take?

Although these movements are gaining a voice in many cases, the reality is that the involved counties seceding from their states is a difficult proposition.  Most of the counties in these movements are rural in nature and they rely on the tax revenue generated largely by urban areas to operate.  In addition, the formation of a new state would require the approval of the state from which the counties are leaving as well as the federal government.

The last time counties broke off from an existing state to form a new state was with the formation of West Virginia, which was formed in 1863 when 50 counties broke off from Virginia.

Despite the long odds, Strzelczyk and other leaders plan to continue their movements and engage in the necessary political processes.

“This is about popular support,” Strzelczyk said.  “Ultimately, if the people of these five western counties do not support this effort, we’re not going to force them to leave.”

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.