Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: A History Of State Secession

On Tuesday, some Colorado counties voted to secede from the state. Their secession effort was largely symbolic — and it has been done elsewhere in the U.S. with great regularity.

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Colorado voters passed a marijuana tax in yesterday's election. Other items on the ballot there? A tax hike to fund education - that one failed - and then there was a vote toward creating a 51st state. Eleven rural counties in Northern Colorado voted on plans to secede.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And several of those counties voted yes. They said yes, we'd like our own state. What would that state be called? Well, backers of the initiative floated the idea of North Colorado, also New Colorado.

CORNISH: But don't start stitching a 51st star on your American flag just yet. The formation of New Colorado would need an OK from the old Colorado legislature, not to mention the U.S. Congress.

PETER LAUFER: They understand that they're not going to be able to successfully secede from Colorado.

CORNISH: This is journalism professor Peter Laufer, who has written about secession movements.

LAUFER: But they already are successfully drawing attention to what they perceive are gross problems being ignored.

BLOCK: In Peter Laufer's research at the University of Oregon he's found a common thread.

LAUFER: It boils down more or less to a rural-urban divide. But it also can be considered, I think, a metaphor for the kinds of problems that we see nationally: the stasis in Washington and the divisiveness.

BLOCK: And Laufer says you can find these movements from sea to shining sea.

LAUFER: It's Florida separating the panhandle from Miami and the urbanites down there. There's the eastern shore of Maryland looking at the rest of the state as something foreign. There is Southern California that also talks not infrequently about separating itself from San Francisco and the north.

CORNISH: And for more than a century in Northern California, some have tried to merge with Southern Oregon.

LAUFER: As of a few weeks ago, Modoc County and Siskiyou County in California, the county supervisors voted to secede.

CORNISH: And create a new state called Jefferson.

BLOCK: But Laufer recommends a different name.

LAUFER: I suggest they call the state Garbo. I just want to be alone, said Greta Garbo, and that's what these secessionists are saying.

BLOCK: And, in fact, that's exactly what one Colorado secessionist told the Denver Post about the vote there yesterday: We just want to be left alone to live our lives.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, 'BREAK UP')

JERRY LEE LEWIS: (Singing) Baby, why don't you wake up. All we got to do is make up. Come on, baby, don't break up with me. Come on, baby, don't break up with me.

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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