Onlookers say the odds of it happening are unlikely, but voters in several counties throughout Colorado could decide to secede from the rest of the state this Election Day.
A measure that would set in motion a plan for North Colorado to become the fifty-first state is on the ballot in 11 counties there this Tuesday, but even passing that initiative won’t mean there’ll be a new star added to the American flag anytime soon.
Colorado is considered to be a largely progressive state run by a Democratic, Gov. John Hickenlooper, but many of the 365,000 residents who reside in rural sections of the state — namely that area roped off as the would-be North Colorado — disagree with the left’s politics and are hoping to secede in order to elect lawmakers more representative of their wants.
"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,” Weld County, Colorado Commissioner Sean Conway told CNN.
Conway resides in one of the 11 counties where the measure will be on the ballot this Election Day, and speaking to CNN he said that others across rural parts of the state see eye-to-eye, just not when it comes to the policies enacted by more liberal lawmakers.
“We're not renewable-energy unfriendly out here in rural Colorado," Conway said, referring to a proposal that would require utility companies to generate a quarter of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. "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."
Aside from issues surrounding the Renewable Energy Standard Bill, others across North Colorado contest efforts to restrict state gun laws, a matter of such contention that two state lawmakers were voted out of office earlier this year after advocating for tougher gun laws.
“Culturally, there’s little doubt about it,” journalist Michael Tomasky wrote for The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Colorado is two states.”
According to some, however, it doesn’t have to be like that. State Sen. Greg Brophy (R) plans on running to usurp Gov. Hickenlooper during next year’s race, and told KDVR News recently that he has no plans to side with the conservative Coloradoans who’ll vote to secede this week.
“It’s a drastic thing, like a couple that’s been married for 50 years suddenly filing for divorce,” Brophy said last week. “I’m running for governor to be the marriage counselor, to help bring this state back together.
“I don’t want the state to split up, so I’m not going to vote for it. But I’m glad my neighbors and my commissioners are talking about it, because what else can we do to get the attention of this governor who seems to only care about Denver and Boulder?” added Brophy, whose district covers 10 of the 11 counties where the measure will be voted upon this week.
As for Hickenlooper, he cautioned CNN, “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."
The likelihood of North Colorado becoming the latest addition to the United States is rather miniscule, experts say, but people in those 11 counties are nonetheless moving forward with an action that is being largely considered a symbolic effort to raise awareness of the rift felt among residents.