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Verify: Is the creation of 'Liberty State' constitutional?

What's legally required for part of a state to secede? We set out to verify.

Liberty State, a movement focused on eastern Washington seceding and forming a new state, is trying to get more serious. 

Proponents of the movement are taking more noticeable steps to spread the idea, such as hosting a booth at the Spokane Interstate Fair this week.

Meanwhile, many of its members are attempting to distance themselves from Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley), arguably the most well-known Liberty supporter, after he's been repeatedly tied to violent, extremist rhetoric.

Other Liberty leaders have also faced similar controversy.

As the movement attempts to gain traction, we've received a question from viewers: Is it even constitutionally possible?

KREM set out to verify. 

Legal requirements

The clause in the Constitution that deals with forming new states is found in Article IV, Section 3.

It says that Congress can create a new state essentially whenever it wants and doesn't provide any other requirements.

But there's one exception. If the proposed state includes land that's already part of an existing state, then you need approval from both Congress and the existing state's legislature. 

That obviously pertains to Liberty, meaning the majority of lawmakers in Olympia would have to support the concept for anything to happen.

That clause has come into play several times before. In fact, Vermont, the first state admitted after the original thirteen colonies, had to wait for approval from New York, since that state claimed some of Vermont's territory.

Historic requirements

Those are the only concrete legal requirements, but historically speaking, Congress won't even look at creating a new state without some other conditions, too. 

First, there's usually been some type of referendum to demonstrate that the people living in the affected area actually want a new state.

Second, Congress usually requests the proponents draft a new state constitution and how much Congress likes that constitution often plays a role in whether the state gets approved.

RELATED: Proponents of Liberty state hold meeting in Moses Lake

RELATED: Liberty state supporter continues to back Rep. Matt Shea

Liberty's progress

How far along is Liberty?

They're working on getting Olympia's approval. Bills have been introduced multiple times but have never even made it out of committee.

Regarding the referendum, they're working on that, too. Their chosen strategy is currently to petition for an advisory vote on the ballots of every county they aim to include in Liberty. Gathering signatures for that petition is part of why they're at the fair.

On a state constitution, the Liberty website indicates a draft has been written and leaders are currently working on finalizing it.

They are a ways away from gaining the support of Congress. 

We can verify that it is legally possible for Liberty to become a new state, but it remains a long shot idea.

RELATED: Improbable split of Washington state is likely 'symbolic'

RELATED: Spokane Valley Reps. Shea, McCaslin propose bill to split Wash. into 2 states