It might seem like a disconcerting epidemic: counties in Michigan, Maryland, Colorado and California are all trying to become the 51st state. But, relax, it’s incredibly unlikely they’ll be successful.

Today’s Washington Post has an excellent story on secession movements across the country—and on how difficult it is to succeed:

Hard is probably understating the challenge. Political experts and historians say the efforts at new statehood around the country will be nearly impossible to pull off, though they could spread virally through social media, attracting mainstream attention.

The problem is that while secession is allowed, regions that want to separate first have to get the approval of their state legislature and then Congress. It’s been tried hundreds of times, Michael S. Rosenwald reports, but to no avail:

In the 1950s, Northern California tried to form the state of Shasta, to protect its fresh water. The builders of Mount Rushmore also wanted it to sit in a new state: Absaroka, a reference to a subrange of the Rocky Mountains. Eastern Shore residents pushed for the state of Chesapeake in the 1970s to retain tourist tax dollars.

At best, secession talks might raise awareness around an issue or spark desired negotiations, he writes. The piece is worth a read.