November 4th, 2013
03:55 PM ET
11 months ago

Colorado rural counties to vote: Should we stay or should we go?

(CNN) - Voters in 11 rural counties in northern Colorado will go the polls Tuesday to decide whether they want to continue living in the 137-year-old state or break off and form their own.

Even if a majority of voters in the referendum approve secession, breaking away would be a daunting, perhaps nigh-on-impossible path. A new state would require approval first in the Colorado legislature and then from the U.S. Congress, as laid out by Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution.

But then, that's not the point.

The point, says Sean Conway, is to send a message "to the governor. Send a message to our legislators," said the commissioner of Weld County, the most populous of the 11 counties seeking to secede.

"We're tired of being ignored, we're tired of being politically disenfranchised, and if you don't wake up and you don't start to change things, you're going to see more movements like this begin to take a more serious face and move towards creating our own political entity that we believe will protect our very way of life and our economy."

Few in Colorado expect the secession movement to succeed. But for many in the 11 counties - 10 in the northeast and one in the northwest that would join Wyoming - it seems the only viable option for having their voices heard in a Democratic-controlled state legislature that they feel puts the concerns of urban residents ahead of the concerns of those in rural areas.

In part, rural Coloradans feel they weren't heard when the state passed a stringent gun control measure, a law that lead to the successful recall of two of the state's most powerful Democratic legislators.

But the straw that really broke the camel's back, according to Conway, was an energy bill that raised the amount of electricity that must come from renewable sources. Conway argues the law unfairly favored urban communities while putting a much harsher, more expensive burden on those in rural areas.

"We're not renewable-energy unfriendly out here in rural Colorado," Conway said. "But when you start imposing mandates different on other folks than yourself, that's the definition of tyranny, and I think it's kind of where this whole issue started to manifest itself."

No governor wants to preside over a breakup of his or her state, and Gov. John Hickenlooper is no exception.

"Rural communities are hurting, but it's not because of background checks on guns sales, civil unions for gay people or expanded renewable energy. In fact, these are popular proposals across communities large and small. The same is true of our efforts to protect water for agricultural uses, expand broadband into rural areas, and promote tourism and economic diversity across the state," the Democratic governor said in a statement.

"There may be a political agenda behind secession I don't get, because when I think of Colorado, it means all of our diverse communities and people. I can't imagine Colorado being Colorado without the Eastern Plains. If this talk of a 51st state is about politics designed to divide us, it is destructive. But if it is about sending a message, then I see our responsibility to lean in and do a better job of listening."

When it comes to the counties considering secession, politics run hand in hand with geography. When Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver did the math, he realized that had the 11 counties been a state of their own in the 2012 elections, that state would have been the second most Republican of all, behind only Utah. Yet Colorado overall went to President Barack Obama, earning 51% of the vote compared to Mitt Romney's 46%.

"You see this going on in a lot of states, that increasingly you have one-party control in a lot of state governments. Right now there are 43 states where one party is in control of both chambers of the state legislature," Masket said.

"That's actually the highest number since the 1950s, and the minority party is looking for ways to stop that in different places."

But Jeffrey Hare says secession isn't about politics.

"It's about having a government that is responsive to the needs of its communities, and what we've seen at the state level is an urban-based legislature forced their will against rural Colorado time and time again," said the organizer of The 51st State Initiative. "We think this is a healthy response to this urban-versus-rural divide that's not just the case in Colorado. It's really throughout the country."

Secession is not the only item on Colorado's referendum ballot Tuesday. While only the 11 northern counties will be voting on breaking away from the state, all the Centennial State will be voting on a school-funding bill and on raising new taxes for marijuana, which was recently legalized.

A new state from a portion of the old is not unprecedented, Conway said. Of the 50 states, five were once part of another: Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Maine and Vermont. Also worth noting: No state has broken away since West Virginia in 1863 and no state has technically seceded since North Carolina in 1861.

Not everyone in Weld County agrees with Conway and Hare. District Attorney Ken Buck says he won't be voting for the non-binding measure, even if he understands it.

"It's not the best strategy. The best strategy for dealing with the political issues is through the political system," said the U.S. Senate candidate.

Working through the system hasn't worked out for a lot of conservative causes lately.

"I think what's happening is that things are moving so fast the people don't feel included in the process. We've legalized marijuana. We've legalized civil unions. We've legalized a lot of things very quickly," Buck said. "That's a lot of change for people to accept."


Filed under: Colorado
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. tom l

    "Fact: this has nothing to do with "our way or the highway." We'll just leave you behind in the dust like on every issue the GOP/Teatrolls/conservatives have chosen the wrong side of history. It's all catching up to you now though, so bwahahahaha in your face."

    Such a mature comment. Are you referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where repubs voted for it in a higher percentage than dems? I'm just curious.

    November 4, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "But the "Great Uniter" who was supposed to "usher in an era of unprecedented cooperation"..."

    Single biggest thing Obama did to "divide" the country: get elected while black. The tantrum on the right started instantaneously upon their loss in November 2008. All he had to do was smile, swear the oath of office and take his rightful place in the WH and the entirety of the GOP was ready to just throw up their hands and start talking secession. Everyone knows it. The history books will reflect it. The only people it's apparently a secret to are the ones who threw the conniption fit. Heck, even the MSM knows it...altho they pretend not to because they are so desperate to avoid being accused of bias.

    November 4, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  3. tom l

    @The Real TP
    "I want him to fail"

    Do you know what he actually meant when he said that or do you want to continue to misinterpret it and take it out of context like everyone else? Honestly. I know you like to me intellectually honest so just let me know if you really want to know what that meant or if you just want to keep using it as a talking point.

    November 4, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  4. rs

    Such a mature comment. Are you referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where repubs voted for it in a higher percentage than dems? I'm just curious.
    ______________
    I think even you'd concede the GOP has changed quite a bit in 50 years, yes?

    November 4, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Such a mature comment. Are you referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where repubs voted for it in a higher percentage than dems? I'm just curious."

    You're curious alright...and also regurgitating debunked nonsense talking points. What's next...you gonna tell all the minorities out there that the GOP/Teatrolls are the "real" party of "equality" because "Lincoln freed the slaves"? I just love the look on peoples' faces when you guys resort to that (like Randroid did at Howard University of all places). Everyone knows that the southern dixiecrats largely left the Dem party and their progeny turned to the GOP...that the divide is primarily geographic now. Everyone knows what the southern strategy is and was. Everyone knows what you mean when you complain about "welfare queens" and "moochers" instead of just dropping the n-bomb like in the "good old days" of the 50's. Everyone knows the hypocrisy involved with red states largely being the ones who complain about said "welfare queens" and "moochers" while they continue to receive federal aid larger than they pay into the systems. Everyone knows that the election of a black man as POTUS kicked the racist wasp nest and sent half the country into a hair-on-fire tizzy. And by the way...the only reason you say the GOP voted for the Civil Rights Act "in higher percentage" is because you know darn well that Dems voted for it in higher numbers, but the GOP had so few congresscritters that it inflated the percentage. The regional breakdown proves what I just said above:

    The original House version:
    Southern Democrats: 7–87 (7–93%)
    Southern Republicans: 0–10 (0–100%)
    Northern Democrats: 145–9 (94–6%)
    Northern Republicans: 138–24 (85–15%)

    The Senate version:
    Southern Democrats: 1–20 (5–95%) (only Ralph Yarborough of Texas voted in favor)
    Southern Republicans: 0–1 (0–100%) (John Tower of Texas)
    Northern Democrats: 45–1 (98–2%) (only Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against)
    Northern Republicans: 27–5 (84–16%)

    November 4, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. The Real Tom Paine

    Tom,

    If you have a teachable moment, then please use it. By all means, go ahead. Btw, do you object to the context of my other quotes?

    November 4, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. O'drama ya Mama

    Republicans claim "liberals" are trying to impose their way on everyone in the state without saying their intentions are one in the same.

    November 4, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. a watson

    Conservatives don't get to do this every time something doesn't go their way. It's called representative democracy, and conservatives don't get to whine because their ideas and politics are unpopular.

    November 4, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. The Real Tom Paine

    -tom l

    "Fact: this has nothing to do with "our way or the highway." We'll just leave you behind in the dust like on every issue the GOP/Teatrolls/conservatives have chosen the wrong side of history. It's all catching up to you now though, so bwahahahaha in your face."

    Such a mature comment. Are you referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where repubs voted for it in a higher percentage than dems? I'm just curious.
    ****************
    Don't you find it sad that such a great piece of bibartisan-supported legislation was allowed to be gutted this year, a law that worked and only the right wing ( now solely centered in the GOP) found objectionable, waving the false canard of " reverse racism) as it was gutted? Perhaps the formula needed to be updated, but that was never the argument the Right has used: they stated the problem solved, presumbly because they found it inconvenient.

    November 4, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. Ol' Yeller

    "Such a mature comment. Are you referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where repubs voted for it in a higher percentage than dems? I'm just curious."

    I have commented on this before, but as usual, you just make inanae posts and don't bother to actually read facts.... Take a history class and learn about the fracture of the Democratic Party over that issue. How the rascist Dems (Dixiecrats from the 'Solid South') left the Dems over the Civil Rights support of the non rascist Dems. They are no longer in the Democratic Party. They are now in the party you carry water for daily. It is interesting given the fact the republicants are now fracturing from within and something is going to have to give.
    Think about it tom I, the party you defend daily have sent who to the WH the last several times... a rich and powerful son of a prior President. Last time you ran an out of touch muti-millionaire.
    Who has the 'elite' Dems elected? A mixed race son of single mother. A poor boy from Arkansas reaised in a broken home with an abusive step father.
    Is it any wonder your party of mongrels (NASCAR rednecks, rascists, ultra religious, and the uber-wealthy) can't get together a workable coalition? That is why your party is in dire straights right now and you all can live in denial about it... just makes it that much more amusing for us.

    November 4, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  11. Whats this?

    American counties trying to pull an American trick? Let them become their own state. Bullocks! Let them form their own country! Isn't that what "America" is all about? Michigan and Maine are pretty much their own countries, same for a few other states. Now (I/we) understand this is a "political stunt", but........

    November 4, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. Bill from Long Island

    11 counties? I wish it were 11 states.

    November 4, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "Do you know what he actually meant when he said that or do you want to continue to misinterpret it and take it out of context like everyone else?"

    Waaaaaaah! Cry more. How about you apologize for "you didn't build that" and then we'll talk. When Limbaugh rants that he wants failure, there's a legitimate argument that wishing failure upon the POTUS and his programs includes the goals that his programs hope to achieve, which were laudable goals...that wishing failure on attempts to help the country results in more damage than good. Taking "you didn't build that" out of context illegitimately ignored that Obama was making a point about the various contributions all parts of society make toward each individual's achievements, including the federal gov't providing the entire societal and physical infrastructure that makes their attempts to succeed possible in the first place.

    November 4, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. Whats this? II

    Revolution is in sight.

    November 4, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  15. len

    The far right cannot and will not accept this fact, 53 and 54 percent of Americans voted for a blackman to be President. ....in 2008 and 2012.

    November 4, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. China Mike

    If they can do it, then they should bring back the lost state of Franklin...bet most Americans never heard of it! Google it. Yes, there was an actual state called Franklin.

    November 4, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  17. Larry in Houston

    I think you should GO !! LOL .....No state has done this since the 35th State to enter the Union......LOL
    Unlike the 17th state to enter......the 17th state is one of the Battleground states .....LOL

    November 4, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  18. tom l

    "Single biggest thing Obama did to "divide" the country: get elected while black"

    Disgusting and so categorically ridiculous but what else would I expect. After Bush was elected, and still to this day, people on the left invalidate his presidency due to Florida and the vote count and recount. You had the senate leader call him a loser and a liar and you had the Pelosi call him a total failure. You just don't get it. It has nothing to do with the pigmentation of his skin (for most, not all, as there still is a small percentage that don't like him because he is black just like there is a small percentage that only like him because he is black). It has everything to do with his policies. You don't think that repubs would support a Condeleeza Rice presidency? Or how about a Ben Carson presidency? Or how about their support of Sarah Palin while they still supposedly hate women? Your arguments ring hollow. You are the one with the predispostion and it's definitley due to your Paula Dean moment that you must have had at some time. Nobody can think of race this much, unless......

    November 4, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. danshaw4

    Eastern Washington state and north Idaho have been kicking around the idea of a new state for years–the state capitols are on the opposite side of the state and have little in common with the folks on "the other side". Especially during presidential elections, the mostly-republican leaning eastern side of Washington state might as well not even vote–King and Pierce counties in the west have enough democratic votes to nullify anything the eastern side might believe in.

    November 4, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. Jackson

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    So when a major disaster hits those counties, don't come running back asking the U.S. for aid.

    ___________________

    You so clearly did not read the article. You are completely embarrassing yourself.

    They are not voting on seceding from the US. They are voting on seceding from Colorado, and joining other states instead.

    November 4, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  21. socompatriot

    This is all part of the extreme liberal progressive agenda to have the cities drive policy in America. Remember, Obama has said over and over that we must repopulate our cities and we must do everything we can to make our cities great again. He does not like rural America, has no experience in rural America and is willing to let rural America erode. And, rural Americans have different values than city dwellers including religion, guns, hunting, farming, Tough to be a community organizer in small towns.

    November 4, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain: Hey, GOP, where's our $24 billion reimbursement check?

    @Sniffit: "The tantrum on the right started instantaneously upon their loss in November 2008."

    And Limbaugh ushered it in by publicly declaring he hoped President Obama failed. That gave permission to all the RWNJs to openly hate and obstruct and vilify the POTUS after having been told for 8 years prior that to criticize the president was akin to treason, antheism and gay-loving while having an abortion, all rolled into one!

    Birther madness, simultaneous complaints that Obama was beholden to Rev. Wright AND Islam, accusations of being Satan himself – being black just made it all the more easy for the GOP to get folks to jump on their loony bin bandwagon.

    No wonder people in droves are leaving the GOP ... and the tea bags would be NOWHERE without the purse strings/dog collars of the Koch brothers.

    November 4, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. mac1017

    You haven't heard about very progressive/Democratic parts of states saying they were going to form their own states because they didn't agree with what their state was doing? Or that their state voted for Reagan or either of the Bushes. When are conservatives going to understand that democracy is about majority rule, but that we have a lot of protections built into our political and legal systems for the minority opinion to be heard. But, the majority rules in elections and votes in state legislations.

    November 4, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  24. oneWayfarer

    Colorado Confederacy?

    November 4, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. ThinkAgain: Hey, GOP, where's our $24 billion reimbursement check?

    They'll never succeed, but it's obvious these yahoos in Colorado haven't thought this through. One hearty wildfire without federal support and they'd be toast (pun intended).

    November 4, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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