Assume a county in State A wanted to join State B. Would that be possible? If so, what would be the procedure? If not, why not?

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    Yes, it has been done. West Virginia.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 7:08
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    @jamesqf: I don't think that's accurate. West Virginia became its own independent state. It did not join an existing state. This question is about the latter scenario. Not the former. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 7:42
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    @RainWillow, does this question inspired by that story with Oregon-Idaho usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/02/17/… ? It seems, that it is juridically possible. But I doubt if burocracy would allow this. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 9:02
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    Is this a better fit for law.stackexchange.com ?
    – BurnsBA
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 13:50
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    Does this answer your question: How could Philadelphia join New Jersey? - It's about a specific city and state instead of a county and more general, but it's the same concept, with the same answers.
    – Bobson
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 16:39

4 Answers 4


As said in the US constitution:

Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the US Constitution states: New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

States border changes between two are related to "parts of States", I think. And it is logical - that it should be admitted by both states Legislatures + Congress.

So, seems, that it is possible, but hard to achieve.

Also, there is some fresh example of an attempt.

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    The passage you quoted is not as straightforward as you might think interpretation-wise; see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_v._West_Virginia#Assessment "Should the phrase between the first and second semicolons be read as absolutely barring the creation of a state within the jurisdiction of an existing state, or should it be read in conjunction with the following clause (which permits such creation with the consent of the existing state)?" Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 11:18
  • @Fizz, I'm also not very sure about it - so I've added ", I think". But it seems logical enough, to treat it so. So, I've posted that answer. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 11:29
  • From the same wiki article, the US Supreme Court seems to have developed a tacit approval ("implied consent") doctrine regarding Congress actions on such matters, so your first para under the quote is also a bit misleading. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 11:33
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    While that quote prohibits the creation of new States from parts of existing States, it doesn't answer whether or not moving a geographical boundary to make State A smaller and existing State B larger by the same amount falls under that restriction. (And, if permitted, does the County have to be adjacent to the State it wants to join, or is it able to become an exclave, such as if Cheyenne County, CO wanted to join Texas) Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 14:09
  • @Chronocidal: The quote does address that. After such an event, State B would be formed by the junction of two or more states or parts of states. So, the Constitution says this can be allowed only with the consent of both states concerned as well as of the Congress. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 17:52

Yes, it's been done before.

Jones County in Mississippi along with a couple neighboring counties succeeded from both the Union and the Confederacy during the US Civil War.

There is a 2016 movie Called Free State of Jones about this.

  • It's a little hard to say that they succesfully seceded, given their independence didn't last beyond the civil war. And the civil war established that backing out of the union isn't possible. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 19:04
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    @ambitiose_sed_ineptum: No, it didn't establish that backing out of the union isn't possible, it just established that you need either a bigger army (and supporting industrial base) or a Federal leadership that isn't willing to slaughter more than half a million people in order to keep you in their control.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 4:43

Yes, but not because of the Statehood Clause. That clause is about adding new states, and is silent about changes to an existing state.

However, if all four of the following groups voted in favor of the change

  1. The population of the county
  2. The old state
  3. The new state
  4. Congress

then there is no party left with legal standing in court to sue to stop the change. Any attempt to stop the change in the courts would be thrown out, and the change would be accepted de facto.

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    Even if "the population of the county" votes in favor of the change, couldn't there be some folks in the minority who would still have standing to sue? Maybe, for example, the old state has no income tax and the new state does. Even if 99% of the county residents vote to change to the new state, someone whose tax bill goes up might contend that they were financially damaged by the change and therefore that they have standing to sue. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 15:21

There are a few cases where things like this have happened(or come close to happening). You don't hear about the most popular time when it did because is immediately preceded WW2.

Since the mid-19th century, the mountainous region of northern California and parts of southwestern Oregon have been proposed as a separate state. In 1941, some counties in the area ceremonially seceded, one day a week, from their respective states as the State of Jefferson. This movement disappeared after America's entry into World War II, but the notion has been rekindled in recent years.

Partition and secession in California

Jefferson (proposed Pacific state)

It doesn't appear that any of these officially seceded, but they came very close. In the articles they talk a little bit about the procedure of how they planned on creating a new state, Worth a look if you were not aware that this had happened. This is a case of counties in states A and B coming together to form a state and not counties moving to a separate state.

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