Columbia County commissioners considering advisory ballot for 51st state
July 16, 2020
DAYTON—During their work session on Monday, the Columbia County Commissioners discussed whether to give county voters an opportunity to voice an opinion about creating a 51st state, called Liberty.
Earlier this month Danette Bolyard, a spokesperson for the Liberty State Movement, presented the board with a petition signed by 30 people asking that an advisory vote be placed on this November’s general election ballot.
Commissioner Chuck Amerein, who is in favor, said it can be viewed as a protest vote and would place the state legislature on notice regarding the discontent felt by some of the east-side residents. He is hoping it will become a mandate.
Commissioner Ryan Rundell is in favor of the advisory ballot with some reservations. He thinks people will cast a purely emotional vote, without thinking about future financial impacts. Also, if a majority of the people approve, a push from the county in that direction will be expected.
Commissioner Mike Talbott, who is opposed, said it would be a waste of money when there are other more important priorities for the county. He said the Liberty State Movement represents a “lose/lose” situation for eastern Washington, particularly with regard to revenue. Columbia County depends heavily on the west side for funding county roads, for instance. He also believes moving the state capital to a city like Spokane does nothing to solve the lack of representation east-side rural voters currently feel.
Marty Hall who is running against Talbott in the November election said he is in favor of placing the advisory vote on the ballot.
“I like the concept of Liberty State, but there is a lot of ground to cover before it could come to be,” Hall said.
Hall said he believes the role of the commission is to act on behalf of the desire of the people when it proves to be feasible.
If the commissioners decide to proceed with a resolution, Columbia County will be the first county in Washington State to assess voter preference regarding the Liberty State Movement.
The Liberty State Movement is an effort to create a new state from Washington State, based on political and geographic lines, by drawing a boundary down the Cascade Crest. In the opinion of the Liberty State Movement organizers, people living in the eastern and rural areas of the state have felt separate from the western capital in Olympia since the state was formed in 1889. They believe the chasm has deepened in recent times.