For the first time since the Civil War, U.S. counties have voted to instruct their elected officials to pursue the possibility of forming a 51st state.
Residents of five Colorado counties voted Tuesday in favor of the resolutions.
The issue was on the ballot in 11 counties, but at the end of the night Philips, Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Yuma and Washington Counties voted in favor, while Weld, Logan, Elbert, Sedgwick, Lincoln and Moffat counties voted against the idea.
“This is an important moment for liberty,” said Jeffrey Hare, founder of the 51st state initiative. “We have five counties in this state that have said they want to exercise their rights under the state constitution and secede.”
Colorado has a strong statement in its constitution saying the people have the right to abolish the government anytime they believe it is necessary. Article II of the Colorado constitution says:
“The people of this state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves, as a free, sovereign and independent state; and to alter and abolish their constitution and form of government whenever they may deem it necessary to their safety and happiness, provided, such change be not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.”
The wording is particularly significant, because Colorado became a state in 1876, 11 years after the end of the Civil War.
With the passage of the ballot measures in the five counties, Coloradans for the second time this year have drawn their authority directly from the state constitution to do something that politics was unable to accomplish.
Earlier they used Article XXI to recall from office two Democratic state senators who voted in favor of a series of gun control laws that were among the strictest in the nation. The recall was the first time the constitutional provision had ever been utilized.
Now residents are taking the first step to exercise their right to abolish their form of government. While media reports have claimed residents were voting on secession, that is not completely accurate.
Secession would need the approval of the state legislature or state electorate and then of the U.S. Congress.
Hare noted that even in the counties that voted against secession the margin of victory was not overwhelming.
“Since this movement began a few months ago we went from zero to 43 percent approval even in the counties that voted against the issue,” Hare said. “This is especially significant when you consider that unlike other ballot initiatives, there was no organized campaign in support of the measure.”
“The most we did was a few radio ads and Facebook posts. We didn’t have the time or money to have meetings advocating the issue. In spite of this, large percentages of voters said they wanted to leave the state.”
The movement has inspired residents in other states to consider similar measures. In California, residents in some northern counties are attempting to secede from the state and form a new state of Jefferson. Residents of other states have also contacted county officials asking about the possibility of starting their own secession movements.
Weld County commissioner Sean Conway said while he respects the wishes of the voters, who turned down the resolution, the issues that prompted the vote still need to be addressed.
“You have to respect the voters’ decision. Weld County commissioners will not pursue a 51st state, but we will pursue other options that I think address the problem,” Conway said from a Weld County election watch party in Fort Lupton. “The (disconnect) problem still exists. I think it’s incumbent upon us to continue this dialogue, which began in June to address the disconnect between rural and urban communities in Colorado, and come together to try and find a solution to addressing that problem.”
Conway told WND the vote raised awareness of the problem and inspired others nationwide.
“I fully understand that our movement is kind of like the young child who said the emperor has no clothes on,” Conway said. “We are setting the example and leading the way for people all across this country who are frustrated at being ignored by government officials and we’re doing what they wanted to do, but were afraid to attempt. People all across the country are now finding courage because of what we did. They’re saying if northeastern Colorado can stand up to a government that doesn’t address their concerns, then we can to.”
Hare said with Tuesday’s vote, the movement is just beginning.
“We now need to focus on educating people in the counties that voted for the issue on the need to put pressure on the legislature to allow them to have an actual vote on the issue,” Hare explained. “These counties are all right next to each other, we have established a beachhead for secession in the state and we need to build on the ground we do have.”