WASHINGTON — Arizona has been in the union more than a century, but some residents appear to want out.
A petition to let the state secede went up on the White House website recently and it already has received more than half of the 25,000 signatures needed to trigger an official response.
The petition was one of about 45 such petitions from states, some repeats, posted on the White House site in recent weeks. It has until Dec. 10 to reach its goal, although Sun City West resident Fred Voosen said he is not paying much attention to Arizona’s petition or any others.
“It’s not legal,” he said. “Texas is the only state I’m aware of that can do it. So I don’t think we’re going to see people in those other states taking up arms any time soon. I doubt that seriously.”
Voosen said he believes the petitions stem from frustration and the people signing them probably know nothing will happen.
“The secession thing is never going to happen, so I guess it’s basically symbolic,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t vote for the party in power now, and they’re disgruntled.”
Patricia Shanholtzer, who also lives in Sun City West, thought little of the petition’s merit. She went as far as to say she finds it offensive.
“My son is active duty in the armed services and deployed,” she said. “He missed his daughter’s birth, and he’ll miss her first steps, her first birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas. He is overseas fighting in part to protect our freedom of speech, and I find it terribly ironic that those freedoms also protect those on the lunatic fringe.”
She said she believes secession petitions only serve to further divide an already divided nation.
“It’s a waste of time,” she said. “I mean, secession? Didn’t we fight a war over that already? We have a hard enough time accomplishing anything as it is. This petition, it won’t help.”
Shanholtzer also questioned how Arizona would function as its own nation.
“I wonder if anyone has thought that through,” she said. “What do we produce here? What is our industry? How are we going to raise and pay for a standing army? It’s silly.”
White House spokesman Brandon Lepow confirmed that the administration will respond if the petition gets the required number of signatures, but said he could not comment on the specific petition until then.
The White House would not release the identity of the man who started the petition, identified only as Nicholas M. of Gilbert. The White House website gives no more than a last initial and hometown for people who signed the petition, many of whom were from outside Arizona.
But a laughing Gregg Cawley said there should be no fear of another civil war anytime soon as a result of the secession petitions.
“One of the big differences between now and the mid-1800s … is the tremendous amount of federal funds states receive,” said Cawley, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming who has written about the relationship between Western states and the federal government.
“Do they really want to give up all that money? I think it makes the whole thing more symbolic than practical,” he said.
Cawley said people who make comments such as those in the petitions are more likely trying to “raise public visibility about their complaints” than actually succeed at secession.
That effort to raise visibility — about 45 of the more than 100 petitions on the White House site call for secession by various states — drew a quick response from other unhappy citizens on the other end of the political spectrum.
One petition asks the Obama administration “to deport everyone that signed a petition to withdraw their state from the United States of America.”
Cawley said the warring petitions should not be seen as an omen of more warring to come.
“A state cannot simply say they don’t want to be a part of the union anymore,” Cawley said.
“I wouldn’t say that these people starting these petitions are grumpy enough to actually pick up guns and start a war,” he said. “Just at a practical level, it is not going to happen.”