In praise of secession (to a degree)

Right up front, let’s get one thing out of the way. I’m not here today talking about states picking up their ball and going home, leaving the union, declaring civil war or anything of the sort. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong lemonade stand. But it’s worth noting that this isn’t the only type of “secession” on the books here. On election day this week, Colorado experimented briefly with a different and absolutely constitutional form of the action. But, for better or worse, it wasn’t a raging success.

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said the 51st state movement is halted — at least in his county — but there were positive benefits from the secession campaign.

“Weld County voters said this is an option we shouldn’t pursue and we won’t pursue it,” Conway said Tuesday night. “But we will continue to look at the problems of the urban and rural divide in this state.”

Weld County voters Tuesday soundly rejected the 51st State Initiative 58 percent to 42 percent.

But in five of the 11 counties where the secession question appeared on the ballot, the measure passed by strong margins.

In Kit Carson County, 52 percent of voters directed county commissioners to explore secession and 48 percent voted against. In Washington County, 58 percent were for the initiative and 42 percent against.

Before continuing, just as a side note to Channel 4, CBS Denver, even if it’s just your web site, you need to get somebody on that editing desk…


Moving on. The idea that residents of rural Colorado (and apparently some other states) are kicking around is the concept of splitting off from the urban portions of their state and forming a new, 51st state. It’s legal, but as we find in Article IV of the Constitution, it comes with a few caveats.

Section 3. New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

So even if you vote to do it by referendum, you’ve still got to sell the idea to the legislature of your existing state and get it through the Congress. It may as well be impossible when you think about it in those terms. But what if you could pull it off? I can think of a few states which might benefit quite a bit. One of them is New York. If we could split upstate away from the Big Apple, you’d wind up with a fairly agreeable situation all around. First of all, the upstate folks might be able to actually start selling their water to the city instead of just getting robbed. It could also potentially set up two state governments which were much more in tune with the needs and profile of the residents they represent. Rural, farming and mountain communities have very different requirements than vast, densely packed urban areas.

The political benefits could be considerable also. New York City is not entirely homogeneous in its ideology, but it’s not far off. Let them have their own voting kingdom. Upstate, on the other hand, is split up into different pockets which could wind up with a far more equitable divide in Albany. Further, each half of the newly divided state could have their own pair of Senators. As for the rest of the nation, they would rid themselves of the albatross of this huge slug of electoral votes ginned up around such a misfit conglomeration and see a more competitive environment in national races.

A pipe dream? Probably. But the possibilities are tantalizing, you must admit. I’m sure there are a few more “dual identity” states out there which could consider something similar. And what’s the down side?

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