Secession Movement’s New, But Actually Very Old Groove


The Denver Post's Monte Whaley reports:

A new proposal to give rural Colorado residents more clout in the legislature by changing the way senators are apportioned goes hand-in-hand with the 51st state movement, proponents of both ideas say.

"As long as something changes and gives us some voice in what happens in this state, there is more than one way to skin a cat," Phillips County administrator Randy Schafer said…

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, is advancing a new plan that shifts the emphasis to the state Senate.

His proposal would give one state senator to each of the six largest counties by land mass — Las Animas, Moffat, Weld, Mesa, Gunnison, and Rio Blanco. The remaining counties would be paired off, and one senator would be elected from each group.

We'll start with the bottom line that this story omits: the two "plans" mentioned in this story to "reweigh" legislative districts in favor of "greater rural representation," whether the so-called "Phillips County" plan to apportion House districts by county or Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg's referred measure to similarly alter Senate districts, are unconstitutional per the 1964 Supreme Court decision of Reynolds vs. Sims. This decision overturned the state of Alabama's legislative apportionment, stating that "the right of suffrage is denied by debasement or dilution of a citizen's vote," and that "the Equal Protection Clause requires substantially equal legislative representation for all citizens in a State regardless of where they reside."

What we're trying to say, as nicely as we can, is that Rep. Sonnenberg's proposal would solve the "problem" of rural "underrepresentation" by taking Colorado back to pre-civil rights era Alabama. When the principles of equal protection were impediments to "rural traditions" like racial segregation. George "Segregation Forever" Wallace was governor of Alabama when this case was argued. The 2009 Tuscaloosa News obituary of Charles Morgan, the attorney who prevailed in Reynolds vs. Sims sums up the importance of the decision:

One of [Charles Morgan’s] many landmark litigations was Reynolds vs. Sims, an Alabama case dealing with the apportionment of the state legislature that he won in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964.

Ever heard of the “one-man, one-vote” principle? Well, it was established in part by the precedents set in that case, which dealt a decisive blow to the rural lawmakers who wielded power out of proportion to the number of people they represented. [Pols emphasis]

We've been accused of taking an unfairly dim view of the push by rural counties to secede from the state, or failing that, force the adoption of a "compromise" like the one described above–all in the name of ensuring rural citizens that, despite their small and in some cases dwindling numbers, their voice is "heard" in state government as urban areas become dominant. You know, like white rural Alabamians did in the early Sixties.

A look at the history of the issue should explain why we think this is not just silly, but also deeply wrong.


26 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. n3bn3b says:

    Wow. You really just plain hate rural people, don't you Colorado Pols? They're not racists, they just want to live in peace as they always have. It's the unreasonable laws passed in Denver that are angering them.

    This attitude will only cost Democrats votes. Spread the word far and wide!

    • DavieDavie says:

      Why do you hate the Constitution, of which you know so little?

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      Since you just use this site to drop your talking points and never respond to anyone who challenges them, why are you still here wasting our time? 

      The point is rural people don't have the right to get more per capita representaion than anyone else.They also aren't any more "real" American than a city dweller or a Suburbanite.  If the majority don't live in rural areas anymore, that's just the way it is. Things change. Not to mention the fact that most of the stuff they complain about, like people taking away their guns and their right to defend themselves, aren't happening anyway. They also enjoy benefits they couldn't afford without all of us awful urban/suburban people.

      Thanks in advance for not responding.

    • nota33 says:

      A lot of rural people are racist. Most rural people are also republicans and racism and being a republican go hand in hand. If the rural people don't like the laws that are passed, too bad. They can always move out of CO if they want to. This secession thing is really making the rural folk look like a bunch of extreme right wing nuts.

    • nota33 says:

      Rural America is becoming less relevant and rightfully so. The rednecks who live in the rural areas can whine all they want.

    • Craig says:

      Hahahaha.  As I have said before, it the rural areas elected representatives who were Democrats or more moderate they might have more voice.  Since they don't, they end up having no voice.  Their fault.  And the Phillips plan deserves no discussion whatsoever since there is no way that the 70% of residents in the front range are going to give up power to the 30% in the rest of the state.  Even Republicans won't do this.  Sorry, this crackpot idea is, well a crackpot idea that is dead on arrival.  I even have hope that many of these rural counties, having realized how much they need the rest of our tax money for things like a flood, will just defeat this idea on their own and folks like Sean Conway who know better and don't really believe in this anyway can quit pandering to the lunatic fringe.

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      Just what this country needs:  yet another Red state that has to be subsidized by the American taxpayer.  Hint: Colorado is a blue state.  That means we give more to the federal treasury than we get back in return.  So by default, that means the $3.64 billion in ag subsidies alone CD4 has received since 1995 has been funded from Colorado taxpayer revenues.  Yeah, those "other" 4.5 million people we're trying to separate ourselves from.  Brilliant math.  There won't be anyone "living in peace" when our leaders figure out what our tax rate has to be so we can exercise full,  "personal responsibility" and be "truly independent". 

    • Hawkeye-X says:

      Have you stopped beating your wife yet, n3b?



  2. ClubTwitty says:

    Seys the suburban-dwelling Front Range n00b3.

  3. ModeratusModeratus says:

    You'd better get rid of that evil undemocratic U.S. Senate too, Pols. Equal representation of arbitrary land masses and such. Do you think Udall and Bennet will carry the bill? If they refuse, aren't they as evil as those rural racist ingrates?

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      Since the Senate, unlike either house of the state legislature, has the filibuster, individuals from sparsely populated red states already have outsized power to screw things up for the rest of us. Thanks for reminding us.  North Dakota already has as much power in the Senate as California, making each and every North Dakotan more powerful than any Californian a ridiculous number of times over. I think that gives rural reds all the uber power they need, thank you very much.

      Here in Colorado,  the rural minority will just have to settle for one person one vote on state matters. It's called the democratic process.

      • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

        You took the words right out of my mouth.  As a fifth-generation Yuma-Phillips County Coloradan, I think this may be the most sophmoric attempt at getting attention I've seen ever.  As Repub36 said above, if they want represented – stop sending flame-throwers to Denver. And find someone capable of arithmetic.  It wasn't always this way.  The days of Bev Bledsoe, Bud Moellenberg and Fred Andrerson were some of the best of our days.  There are plenty of ways to regain rural leadership – but it would take coalition builiding with unlikely allies.  Guys like Brophy would much rather have a new grievance against "the lefties" to talk about in ad nauseuam on his guest appearances on radio shows and guest editorials in the regions newspapers than actually accomplishing anything. 

        • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

          Poor rural Colorado. They don't run the table anymore and they can't stand it. I just looked it up to be sure, and Bev Bledsoe R-Hugo was the longest serving Speaker in state history at ten years;r as the farmers and ranchers think of them, the good ol' days. Back then, laws were made for the rural areas and the cities take the hindmost.  Then the rural folk started selling their land to develpers who built popsicles stick houses on it and next thig they knew, the "country" had turned into suburbs. And, danged if them people didn't start electing suburbanites to replace the rural lawmakers. Now, the people who sold the land those suburbs are built on are complaining that the cities and suburbs are taking over, Welcome to the 21st century,   

        • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

          Right on, Michael!

    • Littletonian says:

      Yeah, the US Senate is pretty undemocratic too.

    • OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

      1) Representation in the United States Senate is rooted in Federalism.

      2) How representation in the United States is apportioned is enumerated in the US Constitution. It therefore lies outside the principle of "one man, one vote," and is thus not applicable to this argument. Oh that pesky Constitution.

      3) The States, and how they are broken down into subunits, are not rooted in Federalism. Colorado is not, nor is any state, a state made up of soverign, but united, counties. Counties are creatures of the State. Their layer of government is wholly subservient to the State Government.

      4) You're a fucking tool.

    • Craig says:

      Dumbass.  Read the U.S. Constitution.  It's in there.  But it's not in the Colorado Constitution, and as I said below, these idiots may not even have the support of their own residents after the latest experience with the flood, let alone any support at all from the front range.  As far as the US Senate, I would favor a constitutional amendment to fix that unrepresentative body. But given what it takes to pass a Constitutional Amendment and the number of small states, it ain't going to happen.  So, we both have to live with it.  Get over it.  If you don't like it, move to Nebraska or Wyoming or Kansas or somewhere.  We don't really need you.  If all of you left, we could let the flood run in that wasteland we call Eastern Colorado.  You have rights.  Exercise them.  Move.  And take Sean Conway with you.

    • Unlike state level bodies, the Senate's composition is determined by the US Constitution (as is that other slightly skewed body of US politics, the Electoral College).

      But with the advent of the 14th Amendment, States (and small, rural type states were involved in passing this) have to abide by equal representation requirements.

  4. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    I think we need to change it to where I get to elect half the Senators. I'm sick and tired of not getting my way on legislation and damn it, what I want matters more than the rest of you bozos.

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