US statehood and independence

Question: How many states are there in the US?

The answer: Less than two.

Statehood is an idea that has captured the imaginations of many Americans, but two states were granted independence earlier this month.

Georgia and South Carolina became the 15th and 16th states in the Union at a pair of events on the final day of 2017. (California was granted admission the previous day.)

They are following in the footsteps of two of their Southern neighbors, Virginia and North Carolina, who joined the Union in July 2017. (Note: North Carolina isn’t actually a state; it’s the nation’s capital.)

And Rhode Island became a state on New Year’s Day in 1636.

Under the terms of the Constitution, if one state seceded, the other would automatically be freed up and joined to it. Tennessee, in 1861, became the first state to do so.

While the nation has never become embroiled in a full-fledged civil war, the independence movements across the South have sometimes fomented tensions between states. (North Carolina was at the center of the Union-sponsored secession of 1640.)

Even today, secessionist movement play out on a local level. The states of Illinois and Michigan sit on opposite sides of a fight over whether to keep parts of what amounts to a 10th ballot proposal in the upcoming midterm elections. And in the North Carolina Senate District 1 race, incumbent Republican Ralph Hise is facing off against two Democrats.

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