Some counties in Colorado are unhappy with the state’s leadership and are doing something about it:

If all goes well for the denizens of Weld County, Colo., come November, there will be an item on their ballots asking them to vote on a new brewing issue: seceding with eight other Northern counties from the state of Colorado and forming America’s 51st state, Northern Colorado.

Apparently, they’re not bluffing. On Tuesday, Weld County’s commissioners raised the issue quite seriously at a bi-annual meeting of the state’s county commissioners. Sean Conway, one of Weld’s five commissioners, said the idea had first been raised about two to three months ago by a group of concerned citizens. […]

When the group of voters first approached Conway and his fellow commissioners about seceding, Conway thought they were “a little out there.” But once he looked into it, he said secession began to look like a possibility.

NorthernColoradoThere are between eight and thirteen counties, total, that are looking into this. Eight are listed in the article. If these eight cities formed their own state, it would be the 42nd largest state in terms of area (behind West Virginia, comfortably larger than Maryland). The population, though, would be 51st, with a little less than 3/5ths of the population of Wyoming.

Notably, three quarters of Northern Colorado’s population would be in Weld County, which is in Denver’s MSA.

With regard to the dissident county’s complaints, opinions will vary on their validity. The less interesting thing to me is whether I (or you) agree with Northern Colorado or Colorado proper on issues such as energy exploration and gun control, but the logistics of carving out a state from a state.

Getting the agreement of the seceding counties, the state of Colorado, and congress makes this rather unlikely. Such splits are difficult because it’s rarely the case that both parties are equally fine without one another.

Though not quite the same thing, San Fernando Valley sought to secede from Los Angeles and though their residents voted to make it happen, the city disagreed because, hey, SFV does some heavy lifting with taxes and who wants to let that tax-base go its own way?

What’s interesting about the Colorado case is that you could, theoretically, get both sides to agree to it. Michael Cain has commented that rural counties are a drain on state resources. So if the rural counties wanted to go, it’s not for-certain that the rest of the state would want to stop them. On the other hand, perhaps those states are bringing in NMLA funds that the state wouldn’t want to lose.

The biggest obstacle, other than the fact that this sort of thing just doesn’t happen anymore, is the US Senate. You might have a hard time getting congress to give 330,000 voters two senators and a congressman. There is already some resentment in Wyoming’s directions. On the other hand, Republicans might like it because it’s two free senators, and Democrats might be okay with it because it would probably shift Colorado out of competition.

Of course, there would be another potential solution to this. Northern Colorado is adjacent to Wyoming. If Northern Colorado were to become independent, you’d have two adjacent states with the lowest populations. Put them together, they’d be larger than a handful of states. Problem solved!

Except that Wyoming would have to agree. They have a pretty good deal at the moment, with NMLA funds being generously awarded to its sparse population. Spreading that money out among more people might not be a very appealing idea. It’s also the case that they wouldn’t be adding enough new voters to get a second congressperson. So they’d have mild representative dilution.

So, for a lot of the same reason that the most obvious solution to the Washington DC problem, retrocession to Maryland, wouldn’t work, neither would my Greater Wyoming plan work. More’s the pity.

Of course, it’s almost certain that nothing will come of this. This sort of thing just doesn’t happen. Just like the North/South California split won’t occur, nor the Texas Split.

They would have their own flagship university, however, with the University of Northern Colorado falling in Greeley, which is in Weld County. They wouldn’t, however, have any good postal initials, since NC is taken. They’d have to find a new name. Probably just better to call the whole thing off.


Category: Statehouse

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4 Responses to Northern Colorado: The 51st State?

  1. Abel Keogh says:

    Maybe Congress would go for Northern Colorado statehood along if D.C. would become it’s own state. Not saying that either is a good idea, just trying to figure out what the Elephants and the Donkeys might be able to live with.

    Also, I think if this became a reality, you’d have other northern and western Colorado counties that would like to become part of the new state.

    Finally, having lived in Wyoming, I think most residents of the Cowboy state would turn up their noses at making part of Colorado part of their state no matter what it’s politics were.

    • trumwill says:

      Yeah, DC or Puerto Rico. Really, though, that would be a bad deal for Republicans, because even though they would gain two senate seats, they would be far less competitive in Colorado. Throw in two almost certain D seats for DC, or two generally D seats in Puerto Rico, and it’s a loss.

  2. Peter says:

    I had thought that the big sociopolitical divide in Colorado was between the eastern Great Plains portion and the rest of the state. It seems odd that the northeast but not the southeast section would be in favor of the split.

    • trumwill says:

      Well, the current eight counties are in the northeast. My guess is that the other five that have been considering it are to the south rather than the west. Which would make it East Colorado rather than North Colorado (and hey, EC is available!).

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