Colorado county to vote on secession

August 19, 2013

Residents in a conservative northern Colorado county will vote this November on whether to secede and create a new state, after a local commission on Monday approved ballot language backed by tea party activists.

The Weld County Commission unanimously approved the resolution’s language, which reads: “Shall the Board of County Commissioners of Weld County, in concert with the county commissioners of other Colorado counties, pursue becoming the 51st state of the United States of America?”

Weld County is one of ten rural counties where activists have held meetings about seceding from Colorado. The activists started pushing for the meetings after this year’s legislative session, when Democrats who control the Colorado legislature passed new laws regulating firearms and oil exploration. The new measures, conservatives believe, are the latest steps taken by an overbearing legislature that’s Denver-centric, to the exclusion of the state’s rural areas.

The legislature also passed legislation legalizing same-sex civil unions this year, on a party-line vote.

Several county commissions have held public meetings on the topic since activists started bringing up the idea; the Weld County commission held four meetings before their vote on Monday.

“The concerns of rural Coloradans have been ignored for years,” commission chairman William Garcia said in a statement. “The last session was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many people. They want change. They want to be heard. Policies being passed by the legislature in Denver are having negative impacts on the lives of rural Coloradans. This isn’t an ‘R’ versus ‘D’ issue; it’s much bigger than that.”

There’s reason to be skeptical of that claim of biparitsanship: Of the ten counties that have had discussions about forming a 51st state — Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Weld and Yuma — nine gave Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney more than 62 percent of the vote. (In fact five of them gave Romney three quarters of the vote or more). Weld County went for Romney by the relatively slim margin of 55 percent to 42 percent.

Secession isn’t going to happen; the Colorado legislature and the U.S. Congress would have to ratify the notion. But it’s not unheard of: West Virginia, Maine, Vermont and Kentucky were all once a part of other states before breaking off to form their own governments.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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Reid Wilson | August 19, 2013