Six Californias?

A rich guy wants to break up California.


A rich guy wants to break up California.

AFP (“Plan to split California into six states gains ground“):

A plan to divide California into six separate US states is closer to making it on to a November ballot, with organizers gaining approval to collect signatures.

The seemingly far-fetched initiative, sponsored by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, claims “political representation of California’s diverse population and economies has rendered the state nearly ungovernable.”

And on Tuesday, the California Secretary of State’s office gave the movement a boost, saying that proponents “may begin collecting petition signatures.”

At least 807,615 voters — representing eight percent of the total ballots cast for governor in the 2010 election — will need to sign the petition by July 18 to make it on to the ballot.

The proposal aims to split the state — America’s most populous with around 38 million inhabitants — into “six smaller state governments, while preserving the historical boundaries of the various counties, cities and towns.”

I don’t have the foggiest idea whether the movement will be able to garner that many signatories, much less win approval in November. The problem with this sort of thing is that there are far more reasons to oppose than support it. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume this passes in November. 

On the merits, I’m rather dubious. To be sure, California is currently grossly underrepresented in the United States Senate, with its 38 million voters getting the same two votes as Wyoming’s 576,000. Indeed, California has more people than Wyoming and the next twenty least populous states combined! But Texas has a similar complaint and the entire system is grossly inequitable. It makes more sense to reform the system than to game it.

As to the argument that its size makes California ungovernable, I’m similarly dubious. To the extent it’s ungovernable, it’s a function of a crazy referendum system, not too many people. Draper disagrees and sits down with TIME (“Q&A: The Man Who Wants To Split California Into 6 States“) to make his case:

Where did this idea come from?

We now spend the most and get the least. We spend among the most for education and we’re 46th in education. We spend among the most for prisons, and we are among the highest recidivism rates … So the status quo is failing. And there have been some very good people running California, governing California. So it must be systemic. At best, the system seems to be on a spiral down. At worst it’s a monopoly, and in a monopoly, they can charge whatever they want and provide whatever service they want. In a competitive environment, people get good service and they pay fair prices.

So you see the current state government as a monopoly?

Yeah. … The strongest argument for Six Californias is that we are not well-represented. The people down south are very concerned with things like immigration law and the people way up north are frustrated by taxation without representation. And the people in coastal California are frustrated because of water rights. And the people in Silicon Valley are frustrated because the government doesn’t keep up with technology. And in Los Angeles, their issues revolve around copyright law. Each region has its own interest, and I think California is ungovernable because they can’t balance all those interests. I’m looking at Six Californias as a way of giving California a refresh and allowing those states to both cooperate and compete with each other.

Regardless of whether splitting it up would make California–or parts of it–run better, the solution of breaking it up into several states has a major hurdle beyond approval of California’s voters. Pursuant to Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the US Constitution, “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.” The first part of this would be satisfied by passage in California; the second part is a high hurdle, indeed, under normal circumstances and next to impossible in the current climate.

In terms of the politics, there are at least two obvious issues: the impact on the political parties and the impact on the other 49 states.

I haven’t seen the precise breakdown being proposed. Democrats would almost certainly balk at an outcome that takes what has for two decades been a reliable 55 presidential Electors, more than twenty percent of the 270 needed to retain the White House, out of their column. Similarly, the state’s two Senators would seem to be almost guaranteed Democrats for years to come. At the same time, Congressional Republicans are unlikely to be happy with a breakdown that adds an additional ten senators from what’s now a reliably Blue state to the mix unless they come out ahead somehow. How many Republican states would be carved out of the present California?

Presumably, the unequal representation that would motivate Californians to support this initiative would have the opposite impact in the smaller states. Right now, Wyoming accounts for 2 percent of the Senate. Why would it want to suddenly vote itself down to 1.8%? Only seven states have more than 10 million people; only 22 have more than 5 million people. So, depending on one’s definition, there are 28 or 43 “small” states. It seems to me that they would be reluctant, indeed, to give up their current advantage.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Al says:

    The plan is motivated entirely by greed. Political greed as it’s a good way to gerrymander the Senate and monetary greed as it’s to keep all of Silicon Valley’s wealth in Silicon Valley.

  2. Pinky says:

    I don’t know why people are constantly surprised by the composition of the Senate.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I posted on this subject yesterday. On reflection, I think the eye-catching part of the initiative, subdividing the present California into six smaller states, is a stalking horse for the other provisions in it, particularly the county home rule and debt-related provisions.

    I think it would be a mistake to dismiss Mr. Draper as an idiot or a nutcase. Through its initiative process California has enacted any number of ill-considered plans in the past and he has the resources and, apparently, the will to see his initiative enacted into law. If cleverly written, once enacted into law the provisions that only affect California would be the law there regardless of what the U. S. Congress does.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    He’s a rich a-hole looking to shed brown people and lower his own taxes. The only tangible effect will be to cost us money fighting this stupid initiative. He will no doubt get the signatures, then he’ll lose 65-35 and well have had to endure another TV ad war. Millionaire dicks screwing with the political system, motivated by greed, self-importance and various forms of bigotry are only good for local TV stations. F–k this jerk for the time-wasting, boring, soul-crushing deluge of stupidity he’s unleashing.

  5. john personna says:

    Well, IMO either you buy the concept of “states” or you don’t. If you do, you shouldn’t really buy that they can be as varied as Alaska, California, and Rhode Island while accomplishing anything useful.

    For sure a data scientist would recommend periodic adjustments to some number of similarly sized units.

    (I think California works fine internally. If not “all your base belong to us” (old meme) it is at least close. No, this is about the functioning of a republic.)

  6. becca says:

    Another poster boy for the Eat The Rich campaign.

  7. john personna says:

    Remember, it is a historic artifact, in the true sense, that states are small on the East Coast and get progressively larger as you move West.

  8. Dave D says:

    I don’t think this is solely an issue of the senate but also with the house. Capping representatives at 435 was foolish at best because the large states not only lose in the senate but also in the house. California has almost 66 times the population of Wyoming but only have 54 more Reps. Wyoming’s extremely low population screws up the entire system and the cap of 435 does nothing to abate this.

  9. Andre Kenji says:

    The idea of the Upper Chamber of the Parliament is to have a elitist institution that can counter and balance the Lower House, not to represent the States(That why there are Senators at Large in Mexico, or Appointed Senators in Italy and there is the House of Lords in Britain).

    The idea of having some states having more Senators than others would not mean that there is no Senate.

  10. john personna says:

    @Dave D:

    Interesting data here on populations per house seat. It varies from Rhode Island (526K) to Montana (989K). So RI is the most over-represented, MT is the most under.

    CA is about middling.

    [update: ooops, link]

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    I personal y think the world the world would be a better place if the United States were divided into several separate countries. I not a big fan of hegemony.

  12. rodney dill says:

    That would only be 55 states… You’d have to break New York into 3 at the same time.

  13. stonetools says:

    I think eventually there’s going to have top be change. The big states aren’t going to stand for this persistent underrepresentation for ever, particularly since they have to take the smaller states using their outside power in the Senate to block need reforms while siphoning off their federal money to subsidize the smaller states. The universal background check gun law was essentially defeated by votes from states that one pundit said “shouldn’t be states at all.” When it comes around to Post Offices and highway funds, other, these big, empty states of independent Westerners all “Lets honor the social compact”.
    That just can’t go on for but so much longer. Hopefully, it will be resolves without the little unpleasantness we had in 1861.

  14. Grewgills says:

    Congressional Republicans are unlikely to be happy with a breakdown that adds an additional ten senators from what’s now a reliably Blue state to the mix unless they come out ahead somehow. How many Republican states would be carved out of the present California?

    Eyeballing the breakdown, it looks like a gain of two R senators for Central CA and 8 for the rest. Central CA would be one of the two most sparsely populated of the 6 so would probably have about 5 House members giving Republicans another 7 EC votes while Democrats pick up 6 EC votes for the extra Senators and lose 5. That would give Republicans a net pick up of 6 EC votes. Democrats would likely get 6 of the 8 senators, maybe 5 sometimes. That would shift the balance in the Senate by 1-2 in favor of Dems, so not a very large pick up.

  15. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Six Californias would be too many. Once you embrace the idea that big states should be broken up, it then should have to be done consistently across the board, and it should be based on some sort of maximum population threshold. What should that threshold be?

    So let’s assume that California is, in fact, too large to be ungovernable. Six Californias would each have to end up being around 6.3 million persons each for the split to be equitable. Los Angeles County alone has almost 10 million people in it. So clearly the threshold has to be above 10 million, since splitting LA County into two states would be unworkable, unless we’re going to embrace the idea of having literal City-States (or County-States, rather).

    So, back to the cutoff. New York and Florida are pushing 20 million, then Illinois and Pennsylvania are pushing 13 million, with Ohio close behind. After them, there are 3 states closing in on 10 million. New York City alone has close to 9 million residents.

    Okay, so back to maximum threshold. It seems like you would want mandatory state splits to be an extremely rare event. Otherwise you would be create a perverse incentive for states to actively want to suppress population growth. State governments contemplating their own demise would be traumatic – new constitutions to be drawn up, new state capitals to be built, decisions over how to split pension plans, water rights, obligations to pay off existing state debt, etc., how the new states are going to compensate each other for their equitable share of the existing state government and infrastructure. How do you guarantee that you aren’t creating one or two new states that will almost automatically go into bankruptcy?

    So you would really need to set the threshold high enough that it is an extremely rare event but low enough so that the entire thing isn’t a meaningless exercise. Probably around 18 million, so that you catch CA, TX, FL, and NY, but that PA, IL and OH would still be a decade or two out. Each new state would probably need to have somewhere between 8 and 12 million.

    FL and NY would then get split into two states. The Florida division would be weird. Obviously Miami would be the capital of South Florida but the next big population center is the I-4 corridor. I guess Volusia County and Orange County would be the northern boundaries, with Tampa and Jacksonville becoming the population centers of North Florida. NY would seem straightforward – NYC and Long Island vs the rest, but then you would have Westchester County, Dutchess County, etc., all wanting to still be part of New York and not Upstate.

    TX split into three states of around 9 million would probably result in Houston and Dallas each being the powerhouse for their respective states, with San Antonio, Austin, and El Paso anchoring the third.

    CA. finally, would be splitting 38 million or so into probably 4 states, not 6. LA County really would need to effectively become our first County-State. San Diego, Orange, Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernadino would be State #2 at around 10.5 million.

    Which means that everything north and west of LA and San Bernadino Counties is getting split into two states, my Silicon Valley friend. Which is really long-winded way to say: Hey, asshole, you’re getting stuck with Stockdale and Fresno. Have fun.

  16. Trumwill says:

    @john personna: Exactly. People think of the House cap as being yet another case of the small states sucking up representation from the large states, but it’s actually small states at both ends, the most underrepresented and most overrepresented. The large states are largely represented in appropriate amounts in the House. (The Senate, obviously, is a different story.)

  17. Trumwill says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    it then should have to be done consistently across the board

    Why? I don’t see any reason why or Florida should have to split up just because California is allowed to. As a matter of senate representation, I could see a bargain being made so that an equal number of red and blue senate seats are added (like the coupling of Hawaii and Alaska), but that wouldn’t in and of itself involve splitting up every large state. Or any other large states (you could add red senate seats by splitting up Washington State, for example.

  18. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Consistency. Either there is a point where a state becomes too large to be effectively manageable, or there isn’t.

  19. Trumwill says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: I would argue that the point is variable depending on different factors. I don’t think that there is a single, objective point at which large is too large. In my opinion the governor Idaho has a harder job than the governors of Utah or Montana, even though the former has more people and the latter is geographically larger. I would think the same to be true of larger states.

    I can’t think of any particular reason why California would be inherently less governable than Texas, but if California argues that its size is a problem and Texas thinks it’s not one, I think that’s up to California and Texas. (Not that we would have to indulge California’s desire to split up, but I think our reason for doing so or not doing so should be irrespective of Texas’s desire or lack of desire to split up.

  20. Trumwill says:

    As far as the issue at hand goes, I think if California did want to split up and voted to do so by a healthy margin (ie one unlikely to be reversed by a subsequent vote), I think congress should accommodate that as much as possible.

    Except when there is a specific reason not to like there is a region in the state that vociferously objects, or you’re dealing with units that we’d consider to be too small either geographically or population-wise. North Colorado falls into this category, though at most one of the six Californias do (Jefferson’s population of just under a million is borderline, in my view).

  21. Trumwill says:

    I wanted to mention, as far as the senate goes… states with populations under a million people send as many Democrats to the senate as they do Republicans. Expand that to states with 1.5 million or less (10 states), and Democrats outnumber Republicans. Expand that to three million (19 states) and it’s equal again. (Sanders and King are included as Democrats in this comparison.)

    The Republican advantage in the senate is actually primarily through the number of middle-of-the-pack states where they win, as opposed to the lowpop states that often draw the most attention during discussions of the senate.

  22. al-Ameda says:

    No to ad-hominemize here but … Venture Capitalist Tim Draper was a very active Silicon Valley Republican in fundraising for George W Bush and John McCain too I believe.

    He may be cloaking this in the mantle of libertarianism and good governance, but his goal is more conservatives in a Nuevo California of his making. Tim Draper is interested in reducing or diluting the current power and influence of Democrats and liberals by creating – out of one liberal dominated state – 3 new conservative states and 3 liberal states.

  23. Trumwill says:

    Along those lines, James Joyner says:

    But Texas has a similar complaint and the entire system is grossly inequitable. It makes more sense to reform the system than to game it.

    It’s actually easier to carve up states than it is to change this. Carving up states requires a majority of the legislature. Reforming the senate requires getting states like Kansas and Utah on board and neither of them have a whole lot of motivation to reform the senate. In fact, only seventeen states are currently underrepresented in the senate. They’d have to convince 33 senators that their state should receive less senate representation including states like Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky.

  24. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Trumwill: I can’t see our current Congress allowing some states to split up for population reasons without also splitting up the rest. Well, realistically, I can’t see our current Congress allowing some states to split up at all, but if this is a thought experiment…

    My primary objection to this gentleman’s proposal is that its a blatant attempt to create as much Republican representation in Washington as possible under the guise of promoting self-rule.

  25. Trumwill says:

    Actually, to go a step further equal senate representation among the states may not even be changeable through amendment. In other words, it could take more than an amendment, but a whole new constitutional convention to change that. I was pretty sure this was the case, but wanted to check and the exact place and wording of the clause before making the point.

    The only end-run around that is one amendment to redact that portion of the constitution, and then a separate amendment restructuring the senate. I don’t know if that would work, though.

    On the other hand, even if this were the case, it would be possible for an amendment to turn the senate into a ceremonial body. Which is to say that every state gets two senators that don’t actually affect legislation, are stripped of their confirmation powers, and so on. It’s also possible that the threat of doing this (stripping the senate of its power), if credible, could convince states to consent to having their senate representation diminished. But for that to work, you would still need to have Utah and Kansas on board. And quite possibly all fifty of the fifty states.

    So yeah, split the states. That’s easily the easiest way, if you are a frustrated Californian or Texan.

  26. Trumwill says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: I could see it, actually. I think the biggest roadblock would be population requirements, perhaps geographic requirements, and most importantly partisan balance.

    I’d in fact go a step further and say that splitting California up without forcing the split of other states would actually be modestly less impossible. This plan would result in five new states, which would be a modest dilution for the other states. Forcing the splits of other states would dilute that further. California would probably have more luck if they tried to split fewer ways. The biggest concern, I think, from a national standpoint, would actually not be that California is doing it alone (except for partisan balance – see below) but that it would set a precedent that few states want.

    But the partisan balance part would be a big deal. So I agree that it would probably either (a) need to come with its own partisan balance (splitting it differently) or (b) be a package with another split that would make up the difference. All of which to say is that yes, this is all extremely unlikely. It’s just a matter of degree of exactly how unlikely it is. In order of likelihood of passing, I’d say:

    1) Split California up three ways, into two Democratic states and a Republican one.

    2) Split California two ways, and allow some split somewhere else (like Washington) to make up for the partisan imbalance.

    3) Split California up and start splitting up the other large states coming up with a rough partisan balance.

    259) Eliminate equal representation requirements in the Senate and let states split up however much they want.

  27. Trumwill says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: I wrote a long reply, but it got stuck in the moderation queue.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    I fail to see what is ungovernable about California. It’s perfectly governable now that we’ve driven the last Republicans out into the desert and left them with a malfunctioning compass and a canteen of salt water. Jerry’s doing a pretty good job. Our problem was the same problem we have as a country: clueless right-wing morons.

  29. Trumwill says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: In case the longer response doesn’t get through, the shorter version is:

    1) I agree that it’s all extremely unlikely.

    2) I disagree that it would become even the slightest bit less unlikely in forcing other states to split up, except insofar as

    3) Whatever was required to maintain a partisan balance of new states.

  30. wr says:

    And of course, California turns out to be anything but ungovernable. It’s true that it seemed to be — but that was back when gerrymandering guaranteed Republicans enough seats to stop any tax, spending or budget bills.

    Now that there is a Democratic governor and a Democratic supermajority, the state is being governed quite well. The fiscal crisis is over, our budgets are balanced, and the biggest fights are whether to stick surpluses away for a rainy day or restore services that were cut.

    What a shock that the asshole who claims we have to break up the state because it’s suddenly “ungovernable” is a Republican. What he means is that it’s impossible to force Republican ideology on a majority-Democrat state, so it’s time to knock the table over and start again.

  31. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: I never did hear how the governor dealt with that Supreme Court decision that was going to force him to free large numbers of criminals from the prisons. I wonder how that turned out. I was hoping that he would pack a bunch of them onto buses, and send them to Washington.
    We don’t hear much about California down here. We don’t hear much news at all unless it is some local events and things like someone getting pulled over for drunk driving or a divorce going on.

  32. john personna says:


    California and the Federal Judges have reached an agreement. It is kind of a common problem though, with I’m pretty sure “excess populations” across the country.

    BTW, on another common problem:

    “In Ecuador there was little difference in cost between handing out cash and food vouchers, the other two options. But vouchers were better at encouraging people to buy healthier foods because of restrictions on what items could be exchanged for them. It was 25% cheaper to boost the quality of household nutrition using food vouchers than it was by handing out cash.”

    We should be more data-driven on all these things. Part of the prisons deal is to let out more people over 60 year old who have served more than 25 years … probably because very old ex-cons are very unlikely to commit violent crime.

  33. wr says:

    @Tyrell:”We don’t hear much news at all unless it is some local events and things like someone getting pulled over for drunk driving or a divorce going on.”

    If only there was some kind of device that could give you access to news and information that comes from further away than the ol’ country store. Maybe someone will invent it someday.

  34. Andy says:

    The only realistic way to increase representation for the big states in the Senate is to either break-up the big states or consolidate small states. I think this particular scheme is pretty dumb, but have long thought California should be divided into 2 or 3 states.

    As you note, that is very difficult politically and practically. However, “reform” of Senate representation is even harder possible since the Constitution specifically forbids amendments which would deprive States of “equal Suffrage in the Senate” without consent of the State. This essentially gives each State a veto over any reform to Senate representation. Few States (like Wyoming, for instance) would agree to any scheme that would make Texas and California more powerful in our federal system.

  35. Andy says:


    The big states aren’t going to stand for this persistent underrepresentation for ever, particularly since they have to take the smaller states using their outside power in the Senate to block need reforms while siphoning off their federal money to subsidize the smaller states.

    They won’t stand for it? They don’t really have a choice – the system is what it is. The Constitutional means at their disposal are intentionally difficult.

  36. Mu says:

    Of course, the whole scheme falls when it comes to interstate water transfers. You split CA according to those borders, and LA has to water its lawns using bottled water, same for the bay area.

  37. Tyrell says:

    @wr: @wr: They brought cable and internet out here about four years ago. Most people still aren’t on. I used to use a cb a lot, but now few people to talk to any more; nice radio, bought at Radio Shack. I also have a short wave, old but works very well. I picked it up at a yard sale for $5. I get filled in at the local fast food place on Saturday mornings. I am not crazy about the news networks. AljAm is good. But most of what I saw was the pictures of Kiev like the whole city was on fire. Details and reliable information was scarce and was squeezed in between Olympic stories, snowstorm reports, college basketball, and NASCAR (which is king here).

  38. Republicans in CA and elsewhere have really only one obstacle to overcome: put forward policies which earn majority support. The Ultimate Gerrymandering of CA has nothing to do with governance, and everything to do with fundraising.

  39. Rafer Janders says:


    We don’t hear much about California down here. We don’t hear much news at all unless it is some local events and things like someone getting pulled over for drunk driving or a divorce going on.

    Yes, it must be tough to live in a place without any television, radio or the Interne…hey, wait a minute.

  40. @michael reynolds: CA is one industry away from megaprofits until the oceans dry up: desalination, and on a Star Wars scale, enough to sell back water to the rest of the SW.

    Drought will see to it otherwise. Turns out the 20th century was abnormally wet.

  41. wr says:

    @Tyrell: Hi Tyrrel — My — admittedly snarky — point was that you are obviously connected to the internet, since you post here frequently, and the same internet that brings you OTB would also allow you to see and read all the country’s major newspapers if you are really feeling deprived of news…

  42. Pinky says:


    it then should have to be done consistently across the board

    Why? I don’t see any reason why or Florida should have to split up just because California is allowed to.

    Right. This is about whether California wants to, not whether they should have to. Gromitt created a whole scenario based on some maximum size, but I don’t see anyone but him saying that. California might just want to split up. Or, they could be not too large, but too diverse. Most states have a couple of power bases but the same interests. California doesn’t. I could easily see a two-way split with LA and the northern state parting company.

    Texas is Texas. There may be some neohippies in Austin who don’t like it, but there’s no sizable section of the state that would say “we no longer want to be Texans”. New York has the tension between the city and upstate, as does Illinois, but I don’t see either of them looking to divide willingly.

    Florida is perhaps the strongest candidate for a willing split but the northern part of the state doesn’t have an industrial base, unless you draw the line very low and put Disney World and Tampa in the north. But Orlando wouldn’t go for that.

  43. DCE says:

    One thing many of you seem to have forgotten is the ‘why’ of how the House and Senate were set up the way they were. Large (population) states have a large presence in the House. All states have equal presence in the Senate. This was done to prevent the large states from dominating the smaller states, i.e. tyranny of the majority. (And we must remember that each state is sovereign, meaning it has its own laws, its own needs and wants. We are not a homogenous nation.)

    If we were to make the Senate representation proportional to each state’s population, then the need for the Senate disappears. We would only need the House as the Senate would be superfluous.

    But such a system would mean the larger states would be dictating to the smaller states, imposing legislation that punishes or hobbles the smaller states in favor of the larger states. How the heck is that fair?

    While some may claim that the Senate allows ‘tyranny of the minority’, it in fact helps keep all states in check, not allowing the large states to “write checks” the smaller states have to pay, and allowing them to maintain their sovereignty. Over the past 226 years it’s worked pretty well. About the only mistake made in regards to the Senate over that time was the passing of the 17th Amendment which made Senators nothing more than ‘super-representatives’ beholden to the special interests who helped them get elected and not the states they’re supposed to represent. Maybe it’s time to repeal that particular amendment

  44. Tyrell says:

    @wr: Your reply was very funny and creative.

  45. superdestroyer says:

    No one has noticed that all of the good state universities will be in three of the states. Now the kids in Los Angeles would not get into Berkley or the kids in San Diego are excluded from both UCLA and Berkley. It is a minor point but part of the strength of Silicon Valley is the proximity to both Stanford and UC-Berkley.

    I also suspect that breaking into six states would put an end to the high speed rail projects.

  46. Pinky says:

    @superdestroyer: Building a couple of new colleges is easy compared to creating five new states.

  47. Robert Levine says:

    And who gets the water? That’s why it’s not going to happen, even if there weren’t any other reasons.

  48. michael reynolds says:

    @James in Silverdale, WA:

    Well, the cruel truth is that there’s plenty of water for the people in California. There just isn’t any for the plants.

    We built two things in the middle of a desert: cities and agriculture. When you drive up the 5 you see the madness of the latter. Where the land is irrigated it’s green. One foot outside of an irrigated field and it’s the Sahara. It’s madness. And even if we didn’t have the cities we wouldn’t have enough water to reliably grow stuff in the middle of a blistering hot desert.

    On the other hand, easier than desalinization would be aqueducts. We have two states due north of us that have one hell of a lot of water. It falls from the sky in buckets, 364 days a year. Sometimes 365. And it occurs to me that we could build reservoirs and aqueducts up there for a lot less than it will cost us to build this idiotic train from Mootown to Shiteheel.

  49. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    In fairness, it was large scale irrigation projects that drove the formation of civilizations.

    Anasazi. Babylon.

  50. john personna says:


    So you are saying that the unequal populations of states was recognized early, and the senate was a “hack” to give them equal strength?

    Perhaps, but that is very different from tyranny of the majority. Unequal representation does not actually prevent that, it just means that your “majorities” will be in votes, rather than in population.

    The tyranny was actually addressed by supermajority requirements, right?

  51. john personna says:


    That the large population states might split isn’t a huge worry … but what happens if Wyoming wants to split too?

  52. trumwill says:

    @john personna: It doesn’t have to be that hypothetical. It’s the North Colorado question (and more recently, West Maryland). I think in that case, the argument against allowing a new state to form is reasonably strong. I don’t have the same hang up about interstate population disparities as a lot of people do, but even I would put a floor on the size of the population of a proposed state. What I would mostly be looking at is:

    1. What is the population of the new state(s) being proposed? No more Wyomings. I wouldn’t absolutely say “no” to a state with under a million people, but it would require convincing.

    2. What is the geographic area of the new state(s) being proposed? I’d be skeptical of plans for city-states or more Rhode Islands.

    3. Is any proposed state having the split thrust upon it, and would be left at a disadvantage due to the split? If Central California looked at this and said “But we would have no money!” and opposed it, I’d be disinclined to allow it even if everybody else loved the plan.

    4. Would it upset the partisan balance? I’m actually not that concerned about a temporary bump for the R’s or D’s, but I would oppose the drawing of state lines (which could last in perpetuity) on the basis of temporary partisan gain. So if you remove partisan advantage from the equation, it helps know precisely why it’s being proposed.

    5. Is there genuine discord in the state as it now exists? Even setting aside population concerns, I can see that being the case for California in a way that I don’t see it for Wyoming. It exists in Idaho even though it doesn’t exist (to the same extent) in Montana. (This wouldn’t negate Idaho’s population threshold problem, though.)

  53. DCE says:

    @john personna: It’s one thing if the states were merely administrative districts whose lines could be redrawn as needed. But that wasn’t (and still isn’t) the case. Each state is sovereign and it’s borders are static, meaning they aren’t redrawn on a whim. It’s also why some states can gain or lose seats in the House as populations shift. The bicameral system set up by the Framers of the Constitution, who understood there had to be balance between population based representation and by-state representation, used this system to achieve those aims. And while your question about supermajority votes is a valid one, supermajority requirements can also be quite crippling and prevent any legislation from progressing through the process. It sounds great on paper but in practice it has never worked very well.

    A population-based representative system used here would mean that less than a dozen states could still dictate to the other 36+ how things are going to be done, even if a supermajority rule is used…unless that supermajority level is 75% or better.

    Is our legislative system perfect? No, of course not. No such system exists. Even the Framers knew that. It is at best a compromise everyone can live with. To replace it with something that we know won’t work (there’s plenty of history to prove that point) is insanity, particularly if it is done at the behest of states that will gain all the advantages while disfranchising the rest. It could, under extreme circumstances, lead to secession of the disfranchised states, or worse, a civil war. It’s certainly happened before.

  54. trumwill says:

    @Pinky: I can imagine a scenario in which a state was required to break up due to it having inordinate influence, but it’s a tough scenario for the United States. I did mention to Michael Cain once that if his Western States of America came to fruition, you’d need to either split up California or significantly reduce the role that states play in the national government. But an advantage of the US is that it is sufficiently multipolar that no single state can claim that much influence.

  55. DCE says:

    @trumwill: What if rather than forming a new state some parts of an existing state wished to join another?

    Many years ago the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket wanted to secede from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts because they were going to lose their representative in the Massachusetts House and end up with someone from the mainland to represent them. That didn’t sit well with the islanders because their needs were so different from the rest of Cape Cod that at times their mainland rep would be working at cross-purposes with their needs.

    At one point the governor of New Hampshire visited the islands and suggested they join New Hampshire. That would have guaranteed them at least one representative each in the New Hampshire House and possibly a state senator. It would have also eliminated the income and sales taxes (New Hampshire has neither). Whether the islanders seriously considered the offer is something I do not know, but it certainly made the Massachusetts state government reconsider their redistricting plan. But what if the islanders had said “That sounds like a great idea! Let’s do it!”

    The same thing could be applied to western Massachusetts, long the “red-headed step-child” of the Commonwealth. Too many in Boston seem to think Massachusetts ends in Worcester and that everything west of that is a no-man’s land. What if those in the western part of the state finally got tired of being ignored except when it was time for the Department of Revenue to collect taxes?

    OK, I got a little off topic, but still some counties in a state deciding they’ve had enough of could just as easily decide to join a neighboring state as to secede and form a new one.

  56. trumwill says:

    @DCE: The population/geographical thresholds wouldn’t apply if they simply wanted to join another state unless the state they’re leaving behind would have an insufficient population, land area, or both.

    The other criteria would apply, though. You’d want to make sure it’s not about partisan advantage, strictly a matter of money (the wealthy part of a state pulling off to join a wealthier state, or something like that.

    I suspect the reason we don’t hear much in the way of proposals along these lines are that it affects more states. North Colorado would require consent from Colorado and congress. Joining it with Wyoming would require those two plus Wyoming. More veto points.

    As it happens, I actually live in an area of a state that really, truly belongs in another state. We just don’t have any real ties to our state. There’s just no way such a proposal would survive the veto points.

    (BTW, I tried to leave a comment on your blog, but the registration didn’t work. I may try again later.)

  57. stonetools says:

    I see two solutions better than splitting up the states.
    The first would be to remove or reform all the rules that make it impossible for the Senate to do anything but by a supermajority. That would go a long way to fixing most of the grievances the big states hold toward the small states.
    Another thing that can be done is to expand the House say to 1000.The large states would have a bigger say in the House.
    I see both reforms happening if the Republicans continue to pursue their scorched earth policies.

  58. john personna says:


    Possibly a state below a certain size should have zero Senators.

  59. trumwill says:


    The large states would have a bigger say in the House.

    Not really. The big states are actually well represented in the House. Texas and Florida are underrepresented, but California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York are presently overrepresented to varying degrees. Unlike the Senate, the House does not uniformly favor small states and disfavor large ones.

  60. superdestroyer says:


    New universities are different than top 100 universities. Four of the states end up on the Tier I academic outside looking in.

  61. trumwill says:

    @john personna: It would be incredibly difficult to square that with the Constitution.

  62. Andy says:

    @john personna: Article V makes it pretty clear that can’t happen without the consent of the State. What State is willing to give up two Senators?

  63. al-Ameda says:

    All of this Nuevo Hyper Balkanization.

    A portion of Northern Colorado want to become the new Wyoming – an under-populated independent state, with 2 senators and a Representative, and disproportionate political influence relative to highly populated state. I say let them secede … from the United States, not from Colorado.

    The same for the “Republic of Jefferson” up in Norther California adjacent to Oregon. You want independence? Fine, leave the country – we don’t need more Wyomings and Montanas with disproportionate political influence. Go it alone, have trade relations with the United States if you prefer, or with or whomever.

    I think we’re nearly back to a discussion of whether or not The South should have been let go back in 1860.

  64. DCE says:

    @trumwill: You can try commenting now. I didn’t realize the registration system was broken and I have since enabled you to allow commenting.

  65. superdestroyer says:

    Image how hard it would be to untangle the pension and bond obligations and splitting up the public sector employees. Four of the states could end up with few incumbents for state agencies.. If debts and obligations are divided per capita, south, west, and Jefferson get screwed. Reorganizations are always much harder than upper management and consultants ever believe them to be.

  66. Andre Kenji says:


    This was done to prevent the large states from dominating the smaller states, i.e. tyranny of the majority.

    No, this was done because the smaller states demanded it during the Constitutional Convention, and they threatened to refuse to sign the Constitution.

  67. Pinky says:


    Is any proposed state having the split thrust upon it, and would be left at a disadvantage due to the split? If Central California looked at this and said “But we would have no money!” and opposed it, I’d be disinclined to allow it even if everybody else loved the plan.

    Very smart point.

  68. Dave Schuler says:


    To the best of my abilities to research, he’s contributed substantial sums to the Republican Party. He contributed a good-sized chunk to Barack Obama in 2007, didn’t donate to McCain, and donated to Romney in 2012.

  69. al-Ameda says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    To the best of my abilities to research, he’s contributed substantial sums to the Republican Party. He contributed a good-sized chunk to Barack Obama in 2007, didn’t donate to McCain, and donated to Romney in 2012.

    Thank you Dave.
    I “mis-remembered” the McCain business. There are Republicans in Silicon Valley – Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Ron Unz, and Draper – who are active in their support of Republican Party candidates (including themselves). Part of their problem is that the GOP is far too conservative on the social issues for Republicans to get traction in the Bay Area or even statewide. In fact, I actually believe that Fiorina could probably be elected to the Senate if she was a Democrat. She’s the kind of Republican that could get elected statewide about 30 years ago, but not now.

  70. trumwill says:

    @superdestroyer: North California would have UC-Davis and South California would have UCSD and UC-Irvine, so that’s four.

  71. john personna says:

    @trumwill, @Andy, @al-Ameda:

    If we “must” give RI a Senator, how can we not give Jefferson?

    Seems that if some group got the votes to make a state, the constitution would have to give them the Senate representation.

    Still, constitution aside I think this SHOULD be the penalty for tiny states.

  72. john personna says:

    As an aside, I am a California voter. As much as making and naming new states amuses me (how about Pacifica for SoCal? Or just Hollywood?), I’d probably vote against it.

    In practical terms the change over would be too costly for too little real effect. All the California Highway Patrol cars would have to be repainted “Hollywood.”

  73. Steve V says:

    @al-Ameda: when you see crazy John Eastman pushing it you know it’s a Republican plot too.

  74. grewgills says:

    That would not be much of a problem given that all of the Californias would probably still be in WICHE.

  75. Barry says:

    “The seemingly far-fetched initiative, sponsored by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, claims “political representation of California’s diverse population and economies has rendered the state nearly ungovernable.””

    As has been pointed out, the only thing making California ‘nearly ungovernable’ was the GOP having enough power to f things up, with no responsibility.

  76. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Actually, developing desalination methods (particularly green methods using solar evaporation/green energy) is something we’re going to need before long. Let a bunch of rich Silicon Valley types fund the research…..

  77. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    If we “must” give RI a Senator, how can we not give Jefferson?

    Well, Rhode Island is not under-populated compared with the whining Blue County-subsidized ‘Republic of Jefferson.’

  78. sam says:

    @john personna:

    but what happens if Wyoming wants to split too?

    The 500, 000 people get into a Godawful divorce proceeding centering on custody of the 1.2 million cows.

  79. john personna says:


    Probably no one is going to go through the rigmarole of splitting a state, including California, but what I’m saying is that if you accept that it can happen legally, there seems to be no lower bound on how small a state you can create.

    Another name for SoCal … San Andreas.

  80. Trumwill says:

    @john personna: That it can happen legally is already accepted. It already has happened, though not recently. Accepting that it can happen doesn’t mean that everyone who wants to do it can do it. Since Congress has to approve there isn’t much of a slippery slope here. It’s discretionary.

    San Andreas is a great name.

  81. Pinky says:

    San Andreas…so you’re saying that California is splitting on its own?

  82. QX11 says:

    One problem this would create for me is that I currently live in what would be part of Northern California, but I want to attend public universities in Silicon Valley. If the state were split up like this, I would have to pay out of state fees to attend those universities.

    I can see how people might be better represented by splitting the state. Also, if this plan had been implemented prior to 2008, Northern California and Silicon Valley would not have passed proposition 8, which I see as a good thing for residents of those states. However, this type of political diversity that exists in California probably exists in all states, with major cities being more liberal than the rest of the state, rural areas being more conservative than the rest of the state, and suburbs being in the middle. It would probably not be very practical to split each state into its major cities, suburbs, and rural areas. In addition, Oregon and Washington have the very liberal cities of Portland and Seattle, but the eastern half of those states are much more conservative.

    If they are going to do this (and I’m not saying they should), it might make more sense to split into five states by excluding Northern California. I think they should include Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Yolo, and Sacramento counties in Silicon Valley, and include Amador, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sierra, Sutter, and Yuba counties in Jefferson. Mendocino, Humboldt and Lake counties seem more liberal based on the political maps that I’m looking at, so maybe they should also be included as part of Silicon Valley.

    I think this will also mess up the postal codes. NC and SC won’t work for North and South California because those are already used by North and South Carolina.