Secession sounds like a big, radical move. But when North Coloradans vote on whether to leave the rest of the state today, they’re actually joining a long, long list of disaffected (and ineffectual) separatists who have schemed to become the 51st state.
Secession movements, it turns out, are actually pretty common -- nearly every state has had at least one. (Just try searching your state + “secession” on Facebook, recommends the Middlebury Institute, a zealous booster of the secessionist cause.) The real question is why anyone bothers. As the Post’s Michael Rosenwald reported in September, it’s “virtually impossible” to break away from an existing state. Even after a successful referendum, the state legislature and Congress still have to approve it. And that is, well, not going to happen.
That has not, however, stopped people in these would-be states from trying -- some of them quite seriously. Here's a quick survey of some of the more high-profile secession movements of recent years:
- Baja Arizona: A political committee suggested southern Arizona split from the rest of the state in 2011. The idea "has been around for ages as a way to differentiate the region from its more conservative brethren to the north," reported the Arizona City Star, but the state's increasingly right-leaning ideological dominance pushed some to take action.
- State of Jefferson (California/Oregon): The State of Jefferson is a long-held dream for some people in northern California and southern Oregon, who have pushed for the state since the 1850s. Activists are currently trying to get secession on the 2014 ballot.
- South California: A Riverside politician pitched an Orange County and San Diego secession to the city's Board of Supervisors in 2011, envisioning a new, more conservative state. A spokesman for then Governor Jerry Brown responded, hilariously: "What is this, 1860?"
- Cook County (Illinois): In 2011, two Illinois state representatives, both Republicans, proposed that Chicago and surrounding county become its own state. It didn't catch on.
- Northwest Angle (Minnesota): In the late '90s, Minnesota's Northwest Angle -- population 100 -- attempted to leave the U.S. and join Canada. To their credit, the Angle is only part of the U.S. by accident, and you can't reach it by car unless you drive through Manitoba.
- Independent Long Island: ... one of several half-hearted attempts to break parts of New York, the state, from New York, the city. See also Western New York, Staten Island.
- Northern Virginia: Politicians in Virginia's monied northern counties have floated secession intermittently since the 1970s. The Washingtonian magazine summarized NoVa's gripes in a 2008 piece on the movement: "Northern Virginia sends millions to Richmond -- and gets pennies back. It's one of the world's most dynamic regions, while other parts of the state are still fighting the Civil War."
- Killington (Vermont): The small resort town, smack dab in the center of Vermont, pushed to join New Hampshire in 2004 over a property tax dispute. The town spent thousands on the effort.
- Western Maryland: An activist from Carroll County, Md., would break Maryland's five westernmost counties away from what he calls "the dominant ruling class" -- liberals and urbanites in Annapolis.
- South Florida: Earlier this year, North Lauderdale and Margate -- two small suburbs of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- proposed resolutions that would sever their ties with the surrounding counties.
- Upper Peninsula (Michigan): Michigan's Upper Peninsula has been agitating for secession on and off since the 1830s. In 2012, a county commissioner raised the question in a board meeting -- though a reporter for the Detroit Free Press cautioned that the discourse seemed "half-in-jest." Proposed names over the years have included Superior, Sylvania and Ontonagon.
There are also, of course, several movements set on turning their respective states into independent countries -- Alaska, Texas and Vermont among them. Those efforts face even tougher odds, though: The Constitution doesn't even contain a provision for states to legally break away.