The nation’s newest state, if rural Colorado residents had their way, would be about the size of Vermont but with the population of a small town spread across miles of farmland. There wouldn’t be civil unions for gay couples, legal recreational marijuana, new renewable-energy standards, or limits on ammunition magazines.
After all, those were some of the reasons five counties on the state’s Eastern Plains voted on Election Day to approve the creation of a 51st state in the first place.
Secession supporters know the votes were symbolic, designed to grab the attention of a Democratic-controlled Legislature. They say the vote results emphasize a growing frustration in conservative prairie towns with the more populous and liberal urban Front Range, which has helped solidify the Democrats’ power.
“We can’t outvote the metropolitan areas anymore, and the rural areas don’t have a voice anymore,” said Perk Odell, 80, a lifelong resident of Akron in Washington County, which voted to secede.
The five counties share borders, covering about 9,500 square miles and have a combined population of about 29,200. Four of the counties — Philips, Yuma, Kit Carson and Cheyenne — border Kansas. They are solidly Republican areas that long have identified more with Kansas and Nebraska because of their agricultural background.
In some ways, the feelings of being ignored date to the days of Colorado’s gold rush, when miners flocked to the Front Range, said Dr. Tom Noel, a history professor at the University of Colorado at Denver.
“Ever since the gold rush, those areas have been places that people rush over, and I think that’s still how people feel — like people are just whizzing past them at 80 miles an hour,” Noel said.