North Colorado: 11 Counties Are Ready to Form the 51st State

Eleven counties in Northern Colorado are voting Tuesday to do what hasn’t been done since the 1860’s: Secede and form a 51st state. It’s more a cry for attention than a serious measure — even if the initiative passes, it would still need approval in the Colorado legislature, then from U.S. Congress, before “North Colorado” is born.

The 11 counties combined have a population of 365,050, which is 65% as large as that of the country’s smallest state, Wyoming (using numbers taken from the 2012 Census). So while it’s not as outrageous a proposal as, say, Texas’s recent petition to secede from the United States, even a commissioner of the largest county behind the measure admits that the point of the vote is to “send a message to our legislators.” The historic method of sending a message to legislators is to lobby for what you want, or even to not reelect them, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for these constituents.

The counties behind the movement claim an urban/rural divide in Colorado, where the needs of rural citizens are being ignored in favor of things like renewable energy standards and moderate gun-control laws. Colorado voters recently proved that they’re not messing around when two Democratic state lawmakers were ousted in recall elections because of their support of gun control efforts. Unlike the recall elections, the initiative to secede has virtually no chance of success because it is dependent on more than just an angry mob. But if far-right voters in Colorado just removed two people from office in an unprecedented special election, how can they say their voice isn’t being heard in the state legislature?

Colorado is a swing state that went to Obama in 2012, but if these 11 counties had been their own state at the time, North Colorado would have been the second most Republican state overall. Voters in Northern Colorado (and certain members of the Tea Party) should remember that you can’t always get what you want. But if they focused their efforts on attainable requests, they might just get what they need.

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Scarlet Neath

Scarlet Neath is a native Texan living in New York and working in communications at a nonprofit. You can reach her at scarletneath.com.

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