Residents in 11 counties voting on 51st state proposal

DENVER - Thousands of Colorado voters are getting their first chance to weigh in on whether to carve out part of Colorado to create a 51st state.

Voters in several northeast and eastern Colorado counties -- Weld, Elbert, Sedgwick, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, Phillips, Logan, Lincoln, Washington and Yuma  -- are not being asked if they want to secede, but rather if they want their county commissioners to pursue the idea.

The question reads: "Shall the Board of County Commissioners of ___ County, in concert with the county commissioners of other Colorado counties, pursue becoming the 51st state of the United States of America?"

Voters in Moffat County, on the Western Slope, are also voting on the idea.

Weld County commissioners said they are pursuing the idea because they felt agriculture, oil and gas were under attack in the State Legislature, and the needs of rural Colorado counties were being ignored.

Weld County District 3 commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer was specifically upset about how the state has handled bills dealing with renewable energy requirements in small towns and drought issues.

If the idea wins final approval, the state would be called North Colorado and would likely include 11 counties, but could include more.

Weld County District 2 Commissioner Doug Rademacher told the Greeley Tribune he expects voters to approve the creation of a new state by at least a 60 percent margin. However, in spite of support for the idea, Rademacher and political science experts say they do not expect it to actually happen.

"I think the mere discussion of this has already had a positive impact in terms of the dialogue that I say has begun and continues to happen," Commissioner Sean Conway said. "A win for us would be to continue this dialogue."

Under guidelines in the U.S. Constitution, North Colorado would have to get the consent of the Colorado General Assembly and the U.S. Congress to move forward with forming its own state.

West Virginia was the last to separate and form a new state. That was 150 years ago, in 1863.