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West Virginia wants Frederick County to switch states. Here's how it would rank if it did

In an unusual — and unlikely — resolution, West Virginia's State Senate invited Frederick County, Virginia, to join their state.
Credit: WUSA9

WASHINGTON — On Monday, the West Virginia State Senate made an unusual offer to the people of Frederick County, Virginia: Come join our state.

In a resolution noting the long history of Frederick County – which, the resolution says, could be "regarded as the mother of" seven West Virginia counties, among them Jefferson, Berkeley, and Hampshire – West Virginia State Senator Charles Trump (R-Berkeley Springs) argues that an 1870 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court reserved the right of Frederick County to decide to join West Virginia in perpetuity.

West Virginia became a state in 1861 when the Union-supporting counties of Northwestern Virginia broke off from the rest of the state, which eventually became the capital of the Confederacy. Frederick was one of three counties, along with Berkeley and Jefferson, given the opportunity to join West Virginia after the Civil War. 

Berkeley and Jefferson chose to do so, but Frederick never held a vote on the issue.

"There remain, as there have always been, feelings of deep affection for Frederick County and for her inhabitants by and among the citizens of West Virginia, and in particular by and among the citizens of those counties in West Virginia which may be regarded as the children of Frederick County," Sen. Trump wrote in the resolution. "In 1862, when the government of Virginia, meeting in Wheeling, took up the question of the formation of a new state, Frederick County was among those counties which were regarded as having a natural place within the new state."

READ MORE | West Virginia State Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 (2020)

While the resolution was passed by a voice vote in the West Virginia State Senate and sent to the House, it was not immediately clear how seriously Frederick County was taking the offer. 

As of Monday afternoon, the Frederick County Board of Supervisors had not released a public statement.

While Frederick County hopping state lines is almost certainly unlikely at best, we were curious where it would rank among West Virginia counties were it to do so.

To answer that question, we pulled Census data for Frederick County and every county in West Virginia to see how they stacked up across more than a dozen metrics.

In many ways, acquiring Frederick County would be a coup for West Virginia. Frederick would immediately become the county with the second-highest income in the state, along with the lowest poverty rate and the third-lowest unemployment rate.

A hypothetical Frederick County, West Virginia, would have the highest rate of private health insurance in the state and would bring businesses generating more than $6.7 million in sales and receipts a year.

Frederick County, West Virginia, would be the 10th-most diverse county in the state, with 8.7% non-white residents. Just under 8% of its residents would be veterans, compared to West Virginia’s statewide average of 8.8%. It would have the third-highest rate of household computer access, and the fifth-highest rate of Internet access.

Unlike its current home of Virginia, which went blue for Hillary Clinton in 2016, Frederick County (65% for Donald Trump in 2016) would keep West Virginia’s solid red presidential map intact. That might be a sticking point for the residents of Winchester City, who voted for Clinton by a small margin and who would likely lose their independent city status if Frederick County joined West Virginia -- which does not have independent cities.

The actual act of transferring a county from one state to another would likely require the consent of both states involved and would almost certainly prompt a Supreme Court challenge. 

That being said, it’s not without precedent – in 1847, the land that now makes up Arlington County and the City of Alexandria retroceded from the District of Columbia to rejoin Virginia.

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Jordan Fischer is the data reporter for WUSA9. Follow him on Twitter at @JordanOnRecord.