Backers of breakaway state unfazed by rejection of voters

It doesn’t matter that six of 11 Colorado counties voted Tuesday against going ahead with discussions on creating a 51st state — the group backing the idea still plans to move ahead.

But what the group, 51stState.org, will do next, depends on the remaining five counties that voted for the measure, said Jeffrey Hare, treasurer of the group.

“Having a minimum of 43 percent on every ballot of the 11, and five of the 11 having more of the majority of people saying they want to leave the state is a pretty resounding victory, considering we’ve only been at this for four months,” Hare said.

The 11 counties on Tuesday’s ballot all included the same straw poll question asking voters if they wanted their county commissioners to pursue the idea of leaving Colorado and creating a new state.

As a result, the commissioners of those counties that did approve it will meet to discuss where to go next, Hare said.

“We need a permanent solution in place, there’s no doubt in my mind,” he said. “The urban areas will continue to grow, and have more political clout and power over the rest of the state.”

In the meantime, the counties are expected to push a proposal that would call for placing a measure on the 2014 ballot asking voters to alter the makeup of the Colorado House or Senate to allow for one representative or senator from each county, Hare said.

That is the crux of the problem that led to the 51st state initiative, Hare said. Those population figures are going to increase as the years go by, and rural areas will continue to have a diminishing voice in the statehouse as a result, he said.

Opponents of that idea and the 51st state initiative, however, say the effort is so much sour grapes, saying a few conservative people in a few conservative counties are just upset that the Republican Party doesn’t have a majority in the Legislature and governor’s office, which is controlled by Democrats.

“In northern Colorado, common sense prevailed with the failure for 11 counties to secede from the state,” said Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party. “Although Coloradans might not always agree on the best course of action, we can agree that working together is better than not working at all.”

The two most populous counties, Weld and Logan, rejected the proposal by nearly 60 percent of the vote. The narrowest rejection came from Moffat County voters, where 55 percent voted no. Only the most rural of counties — Kit Carson, Washington, Phillips, Cheyenne and Yuma — approved the measure, all by about the same margin, 60 percent.


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