Colorado Secessionist Movement Faces Political, Historical Hurdles

A tractor motors past corn fields near Eaton in Weld County, Colo., on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. Weld County has been the epicenter of a movement to form a 51st state from ten northeastern Colorado counties. A secession measure is on the November ballot in each of the counties. Secession supporters say an out-of-touch state legislature has passed several laws unfriendly to the region affecting gun control, renewable energy and fossil fuel production.(Joe Mahoney/I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS)

A tractor motors past corn fields near Eaton in Weld County, Colo., on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. Weld County has been the epicenter of a movement to form a 51st state from ten northeastern Colorado counties. A secession measure is on the November ballot in each of the counties. Secession supporters say an out-of-touch state legislature has passed several laws unfriendly to the region affecting gun control, renewable energy and fossil fuel production.(Joe Mahoney/I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS)

During the past 12 months, Colorado has experienced devastating wildfires and catastrophic flooding. And next month, voters in 11 of the state's 64 counties are voting on whether to secede. But secession proponents - and, perhaps most influentially, that would be the Weld County Commission - say it has nothing to with natural disasters. They believe they are being ignored and slighted by the Colorado General Assembly.

“What has happened is the urbanization of America has disenfranchised the rural population,” said Jeffrey Hare, one of the organizers of the 51st State Initiative.

John Straayer, political science professor at Colorado State University, said bills from the last legislative session appear to have aroused animosity toward the legislature.

“In terms of the immediate trigger, guns (stronger gun controls) and probably SB 252 (requiring use of alternative energy resources),” Straayer said. “They allege that it is more than that, not being treated properly by the legislature on a variety of issues for a long time.”

In addition to 10 northeast Colorado counties that have a secession vote on November’s ballot and say they want to become the new state of North Colorado, Moffat County in far northwest Colorado also will vote on whether to leave.  But Moffat apparently wants to become part of Wyoming.

I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS analyzed census, budget, crime and voter records to develop profiles of a new 51st state and a truncated Colorado. Suffice it to say, Colorado would no longer be considered a square state. And, of course, neither would Wyoming, with its new Moffat County panhandle. The full report can be read here.

Colorado Secessionist Movement

Should the secession vote prove successful, the counties would still face all but impossible hurdles. They would need the approval of Colorado - either an act of the legislature or a vote of the people - and the  approval of both houses of Congress. The last area to successfully calve itself off from an existing state and create a new one was West Virginia during the height of Civil War. That was approved by a proclamation from President Lincoln and some people still argue over whether that was constitutional.

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