Plan to divide California into 6 states will begin gathering signatures

February 21

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper has a big idea. Well, he’s got six of them: Draper thinks California, the nation’s most populous state, is too big to govern effectively. So he’s pushing a ballot initiative that would split the Golden State into six new states.

The Associated Press reports:

“Vast parts of our state are poorly served by a representative government,” according to Draper’s plan, which cleared a key government hurdle this week, part of the process to qualify for the ballot. California residents “would be better served by six smaller state governments.”

In an interview Thursday, Draper said he has seen a state once regarded as a model slide into decline — many public schools are troubled, transportation, water and other infrastructure systems are overmatched and outdated, spending on prisons has soared.

A group of states could change that, he said, competing and cooperating with each other.

No one would dispute that California, home to 38 million people, is full of rivalries and squabbling. Dodgers or Giants. Tacos or sushi. Where water goes, and how much of it.

But the state has proven reliably resilient against attempts to split it apart, dating to the era of its founding in 1850. Over the years, proposals have suggested California should be two states, or three, or four.

“It’s certainly fun to talk about,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. But “its prospects are nil.”

Even if it were to be approved by voters, Congress would have to endorse the idea of creating six new states — and adding 10 senators to the chamber’s political mix (as with all states, California currently has two). Congress, under the U.S. Constitution, must approve the creation or division of any states.

“I don’t think anyone is going to give California 12 Senate seats,” Sonenshein said.

Draper, in documents he submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office, recommends dividing California regionally, including establishing a state called Silicon Valley, which would include San Francisco and nearby counties that are home to technology giants like Facebook and Apple.

Los Angeles would become part of the new state of West California, which also would include the coastal cities of Santa Barbara and Ventura. The state’s farming heartland would become Central California. San Diego would be the largest city in the new South California.

Here’s what Draper’s new map would look like:


Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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