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Arizona liberals seek secession, new US state

Published time: May 11, 2011 14:47
Edited time: May 11, 2011 20:03
US, Tucson : A boy walks past the flag (AFP Photo / Mamta Popat-Pool)

US, Tucson : A boy walks past the flag (AFP Photo / Mamta Popat-Pool)

Liberals living in southern Arizona fed up with the overly conservative remainder of the state are seeking to secede and form their own state – America’s 51st state.

A group of Democratic lawyers from the more liberal Tucson and Pima County areas have created a petition to place a statehood question on the November 2012 ballot. If enough signatures are collected voters would have chance to decide if Arizona splits in two.

Their goal is for Pima County to separate from Arizona and form the state tentatively named Baja Arizona.

The group must collect 48,000 signatures by July 5, 2012 to place their question on the ballot. The measure is to ask residents if they support petitioning the state legislature to officially secede. In it’s early stages, the measure will be a non-binding resolution.

"We at least need to get it on the ballot, as a nonbinding resolution, to ask the people of Pima County if they want to be a part of Arizona," attorney Paul Eckerstrom, former Pima County Democratic chairman, told Reuters. "All the stars would have to align for this to happen, but it could conceivably happen by the fall of 2012."

"It should have been its own state from the get-go," said attorney Hugh Holub said, who argued that the idea of Baja Arizona dates back to at least 1965. “We aren't like the folks in Maricopa [County].”

While the country is more liberal than the rest of Arizona, it is not without a few Republican leaning neighborhoods.

"I don't think a majority of Pima County residents want to leave Arizona,” said Republican lawmaker Ted Vogt who represents approximately a fifth of the people from Pima County.

The county hosts three more rural region which has becoming increasingly Republican – their voices, while small, will hold an impact.

If the measure is approved by voters, activists would seek approval for the separation from the state legislature and voters in the area would have to approve a new binding measure. Following that process the US Congress would then have to formally grant Baja Arizona official statehood.

If the state legislature disagreed, proponents for secession would be required to push a state-wide ballot initiative to get around the Arizona lawmakers.

Examples of states splitting into two in US history are often forgotten. Kentucky and Tennessee were created by secession. The last time a state split was when West Virginia left Virginia during the US Civil War. More recent attempts have failed, such as calls to divide California, split Washington or pull Long Island out of New York.

If created, the new state of Baja Arizona would not be a merely another minor US state, although it would be created from a single county. The new state would in fact be larger than Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey in geographic size. Its population would be greater than Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, and both North and South Dakota.

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