Rural Colorado Voters May Declare Selves 51st State In Today's Election

| by

By Wednesday morning, America will be on its way to getting its 51st state, if backers of a measure on the ballot in 11 Colorado counties today get their way.

The ballot question in those rural, politically conservative counties would authorize county commissioners to do what it takes to free themselves from the Colorado government and start their own state, North Colorado.

With an influx of college students and younger, more liberal professionals to fast-changing Denver and its surrounding areas, residents in the northern counties feel now alienated from their own state.

"People out here see themselves as a disenfranchised minority in Colorado," Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer told the Denver Post newspaper. "They see urban values running roughshod over their own values."

Among the issues that have angered rural Coloradans are gun control and renewable energy, which farmers see as a financial burden imposed upon them by outsiders. Movements to allow same sex marriage and the state’s vote to legalize marijuana last year also rankle the rural residents.

Political observers say that even if the secession issue goes down to defeat, its backers have already won.

“It’s like if you have five kids, and one of them starts crying, you’re going to run over and see what’s wrong,” Michael Trinklein, an author and expert on the history of secession movements told KUNC radio. “That’s exactly what they want, and it sounds like they’re getting it.”

The state’s governor John Hickenlooper has made special visits to the northern counties recently. One of the region’s congressional reps, Republican Cory Gardner has not opposed the secession drive.

Even if the measure passes, there would still be a steep uphill battle before seceding counties could form their own state. For one thing, the U.S. congress must approve the entry of any new state to the union, and that appears highly unlikely.

As an alternative, the leaders of the secession movement have proposed changing the state legislature to have each county represented equally, by two senators in the state senate, giving the sparsely populated northern counties disproportionate political clout.

But even though the U.S. Senate is structured in exactly that way, with lightly populated states such as Wyoming receiving equal representation to populous states such as California and New York, the Supreme Court has ruled that the same structure is unconstitutional when applied to state legislatures.

SOURCES: Denver Post, KUNC Radio, Daily Beast