Residents petition to secede from US
West Virginia is one of 39 states where residents are petitioning to leave the United States peacefully.
The petitions began appearing on the White House website's "We the People" platform shortly after last week's presidential election.
The platform was created in September 2011 to give citizens an outlet for expressing their First Amendment right to petition the government.
"We created 'We the People' because we want to hear from you," according to the website. "If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it's sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response."
Petitions posted to the website have to receive 150 signatures in 30 days before people can find them through the site's search function. A petition reaching 25,000 signatures within a 30-day period "requires a response," though responses aren't immediate.
Petitioning the government or the White House is not a new idea. Petitions have been used many times in history to garner attention for an issue or spur an agency or government into action.
But petitions for secession probably aren't what the White House had in mind.
The West Virginia petition, which was created Nov. 11 by a user identifying himself as Daryl N. from Vienna, Wood County, had 3,651 electronic signatures as of Tuesday. About half of the signatures appeared to be those of non-state residents.
"We petition the Obama Administration to: Peacefully grant the State of West Virginia to Withdraw from the United States of America and Create it's own NEW Govern (sic)" reads the header on the petition.
The petition, which is similar to most of the other state petitions, also says, "As the founding fathers of the United States of America made clear in the Declaration of Independence in 1776:
'When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.'
' . . . Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government. . .'"
West Virginia became a state in 1863 when it broke away from Virginia during the Civil War. Virginia had seceded from the Union to join the Confederacy.
"We did fight the Civil War over it," WVU constitutional law professor Bob Bastress said when contacted Tuesday.
"The seceding states lost. I think the war showed that it's not constitutional to secede."
He said the Constitution does not address secession specifically, "though precedent shows that secession usually results in war."
Bastress supposed a different president and a different Congress could react differently but pointed out that Abraham Lincoln, who was president during the Civil War, did not.
A person has to create a whitehouse.gov account to sign the petitions.
A few states' petitions already have surpassed the 25,000 mark.
Louisiana, which was the earliest petition listed after the election, had just over 30,000 signatures Tuesday.
Texas' petition had 81,023 signatures, more than any other state.
But just because a petition is listed and has signatures does not mean it has the support of the state's government. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office did not respond to a call seeking comment.
A representative for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who in the past has commented that he would support leaving the union, told the Houston Chronicle Monday the governor "believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it. But he also shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government.
"Now more than ever our country needs strong leadership from states like Texas. We cannot allow Washington's tax and spend, one-size-fits-all mindset to jeopardize our children's future, undermine our personal liberties and drive our nation down a dangerous path
to greater dependence of government."
Another petition on the website seeks permission for the city of Austin to withdraw from the state of Texas and remain a part of the United States, also annexing the smaller towns of Dublin, Lockhart and Shiner. That petition had 1,007 signatures.
There are also petitions on the website to "Strip the Citizenship from Everyone who Signed a Petition to Secede and Exile Them." That petition had 4,011 signatures.
"Mr. President, please sign an executive order such that each American citizen who signed a petition from any state to secede from the USA shall have their citizenship stripped and be peacefully deported," read the
petition, posted Monday by Douglas H. from Escondido, Calif.
A similar petition calling for the deportation of those who signed petitions for secession had 7,139 signatures.
The White House has responded to past petitions but has not yet responded to the Texas or Louisiana petitions.
Among the petitions that received responses were: a petition seeking the White House's beer recipe, which was provided in the response; another seeking the removal of Rush Limbaugh from the Armed Forces Radio service (that was denied stating that the Armed Forces Network doesn't censor content); and another seeking to digitize federal public documents, a project already underway and explained in the response.
The West Virginia petition is active until Dec. 11.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.