Later this year, the first concrete steps may be taken toward creating America’s 51st state. Voters in as many as 10 northeastern Colorado counties will have the opportunity in November of passing a ballot proposition that launches the secession process for purposes of creating the new state of North Colorado.
Does the move make Weld County Commissioners Sean Conway, Doug Rademacher, and Bill Garcia the John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin of modern times? That might be a stretch, but they certainly are kindred spirits with the Founding Fathers.
Like the patriots who formed our country in the late 1700s, these rural county leaders are responding to what they believe are the unfair dictates of, in this case, an arrogant governor and metropolitan-dominated state legislators who continually passes new laws and regulations that downgrade their lives. Newly enacted 2013 legislation pertaining to gun control, renewable energy dictates, and oil and gas production became the final straw for these communities, so the commissioners are now taking constructive action to protect their livelihood and homes, all within the proper legal and political framework.
So far, the response to the concept of creating a new state is strong and the commissioners believe the ballot propositions will obtain voter approval, probably with sizable majorities. In fact, several local elected leaders in neighboring Nebraska, Wyoming, and Kansas have called inquiring how they, too, can join the effort to create American state No. 51.
Even eastern Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, who represents all of the counties in question, is sympathetic. In an interview with Fox News when the movement was first conceived, Gardner said, "The people of rural Colorado are mad, and they have every right to be. The governor and his Democrat colleagues in the statehouse have assaulted our way of life, and I don't blame these people one bit for feeling attacked and unrepresented by the leaders of our state."
The Commissioners say they are open to three possibilities. Aside from forming a new entity, they would consider joining a different state should their move to create North Colorado fail. Alternatively, they would accept the legislature returning to a system where representatives from one house are elected in equal population segments, while the other features county-based representation regardless of size. This system, a common one before the early 1960s that copied the Great Compromise, which created the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, is designed to safeguard all interests. The House protects the large and most populous areas, while the Senate is organized to defend the smaller and less inhabited regions.
Part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1962 reapportionment rulings forbids this legislative blueprint citing the “one person, one vote” principle. Thus, all houses of all legislatures became population centered, which is the crux of rural America’s problem. When a legislature is designed only to benefit metropolitan interests, by definition metropolitan politics will come to dominate the legislative process.
The procedure of a region breaking away to form a new state comes with precedence. Historically, it’s happened five times. Vermont was created from New York in 1791; Kentucky from Virginia a year later; Tennessee sprung from North Carolina in 1796; Maine hatched from Massachusetts in 1820 and, to protest slavery in 1863, West Virginia broke from Virginia.
In order to become a new state, the affected legislature, in this case Colorado, must approve the move, and then the action is sent to the U.S. Congress for ratification. Though the chances of obtaining the regional votes are high, there is little hope that the state legislature will let such a valuable revenue-producing region so easily depart their domain. But, the effort may accomplish much even if a new state isn’t formed.
Weld County is consequentially large with a population of more than 263,000 people, housing the city of Greeley (92,000+ inhabitants). Combined, the ten counties scheduled to vote on the state question reach approximately 300,000 residents, constituting almost 6% of Colorado’s populace. The region is a major agricultural producer and rich in energy resources.
Is what’s happening in Colorado’s northern counties a harbinger of what will eventually happen elsewhere in the nation? Could we see similar moves in the red counties that comprise central and western Pennsylvania? Or, in Upstate New York? How about California’s Inland Empire? Will the nation someday add more stars to Old Glory?
Jim Ellis is a professional election analyst who has worked in national campaign politics and grassroots issue advocacy since 1978. He currently writes and speaks as a member of the PRIsm Information Network.
Feature Image courtesy of Colorado.gov.
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