LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Local attorney Rick Boyer says he’s not giving up on Virginia, but he’s not happy with the changing political landscape.
While he admits it’s probably easier for individuals to just move, he is helping to lead a small, but growing, movement for localities to break away from Virginia and join West Virginia. The movement is motivated by gun safety bills making their way through the General Assembly.
It’s called “Vexit,” or “Virginia exit,” and it was endorsed last week by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Now, some local residents are circulating a petition to try to make this a reality, but there are a lot of roadblocks.
“What I want is to go back to Virginia about 10 years ago,” said Boyer when asked if he wants to live in West Virginia, “but given that that’s not happening, yes.”
He knows it’s a tough sell.
“Honestly I think you might have some issues with islands. Charlottesville, Roanoke, perhaps even Lynchburg would be caught in the middle of a whole bunch of counties that would want to sign on to this.”
It’s a big decision.
A study by US News and World Report ranked each state based on 70 metrics. Over all, Virginia is number 7 while West Virginia is all the way at 47.
It ranks dead last for the economy and infrastructure, 48th in health care, and 44th in education.
“I think that Lynchburg should definitely stay a part of Virginia,” said Lynchburg resident Sheryl Carney. “It’s a great place. I just hope that cooler heads will prevail.”
It’s a heavy lift legally, as Adam Dean, a professor at the University of Lynchburg with an expertise in 19th century US history, explains.
“The Virginia state legislature as well as West Virginia state legislature as well as the governors of both those states would have to approve, as would the US Ccongress and by extension, the United States President.”
With so many different competing parties and interests, he says it’s highly unlikely to prevail.
“I would say a snowball’s chance in hell.”
Boyer is undeterred.
“I think we have a Constitutional right in Virginia, which is superior to the Legislature,” he said. “I think that Constitutional right is protected, both in the federal and state Constitutions. Obviously it’ll be a court fight. I know some lawyers.”
He says about 700 people have signed the petition so far.
West Virginia’s governor cited historical precedent, that West Virginia was originally formed when Virginia counties wanted to break away.
Professor Dean says that was a special case. It took the Civil War to form West Virginia, and it was legally murky even then.