Politico reports this morning that residents of 14 states have used an official White House website to petition for permission to secede from the Union rather than remain in a country that would reelect Barack Obama as president. Many of the petition explicitly mentioned Obama and/or developments during his presidency as the reason for seeking to secede.
This has, of course, no legal significance and would have none unless or until it rose to the level of a state government officially seeking to secede. But there are more than 14 individuals expressing interest in the idea. Writes Politico:
“The two most popular petitions, Texas and Louisiana, have both drawn more than 10,000 signatures each as of Monday morning. The Texas petition needs only 7,000 more signatures to trigger an official White House response.”
There is an urban legend that Texas, as a condition of its joining the union, retained an explicit right to secede. That’s not true. It is true that language in that law suggested that Texas retained the right to break itself up into 5 smaller states. It’s not clear Texas could get away with that now, but if it did occur, it would have an interesting impact on the membership of the U.S. Senate, which would have 10 members instead of two from the territory now encompassed by Texas.
The U.S. Constitution is silent on the question of whether states have the right to leave the union, by whatever process. At the time of the Civil War, the seceding states called special conventions to reverse the ratifications by which they had originally joined the union (or at least joined it under the 1787 Constitution). President Abraham Lincoln took the position that secession was impossible and the Civil War ensued, perhaps settling the question.