Voters in 11 of Colorado's rural northeastern counties are voting Tuesday on whether to secede from the state and create a new state: North Colorado. The referendum was born out of frustration with the liberal projection the state has taken in recent years.
There is little likelihood that secession will be successful, even if the referendum passes, but Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said that's not necessarily the point. The primary goal is to send a message to Gov. John Hickenlooper and state legislators," he told CNN
"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 toward creating our own political entity that we believe will protect our very way of life and our economy," Conway said.
With a Democratic-controlled legislature and a Democratic governor, those in the more rural, conservative parts of Colorado were frustrated when the legislature passed a new gun-control bill, an energy bill that requires that renewable sources be used for a certain percentage of electricity, and a measure legalizing civil unions for gay couples.
The energy bill, Conway said, is especially hard on the more rural parts of the state versus those in urban communities.
"We're not renewable-energy unfriendly out here in rural Colorado," Conway said. "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."
Two Colorado Democratic state legislators were recalled
in September for supporting the gun-control measure that expanded background checks and put new limits on ammunition magazines.
Secession is easier said than done. If the referendum passes, it would need approval from the Colorado legislature and Congress, according to Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution.
While Hickenlooper acknowledges that "rural communities are hurting," he denies that it's "because of background checks on gun sales, civil unions for gay people, or expanded renewable energy."
"These are popular proposals across communities large and small," he said in a statement. "The same is true of our efforts to protect water for agricultural uses, expand broadband into rural areas, and promote tourism and economic diversity across the state."
If the secession referendum "is about sending a message, then I see our responsibility to lean in and do a better job of listening," the governor said.
University of Denver political science professor Seth Masket told The Hill
that Republicans are struggling with how to respond to the secessionists, but that the GOP needs "to express sympathy with those who are organizing the movement."
Masket said those leading the movement "are very active politically," but mainstream Republicans "don't want to be branded as extremists themselves, so they are largely declining to endorse the effort."
Colorado voters also will
be voting whether to add an excise and sales tax to recreational marijuana and whether to raise the income tax to generate money for public schools.
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