One California county votes to secede, two counties vote to stick around

The proposed State of Jefferson was originally limited to the dark pink counties. Later proposals include 19 counties in Oregon and California (Graphic credit: Ballotpedia)
The proposed State of Jefferson was originally limited to the dark pink counties. Later proposals include 19 counties in Oregon and California (Graphic credit: Ballotpedia)

Residents in two California counties on Tuesday voted down advisory ballot measures seeking to form a 51st state among several rural counties, while voters in a third county gave a secession proposal the go-ahead.

With every precinct reporting, Del Norte County residents voted against seceding from California by 59 percent to 41 percent. Voters in Siskiyou County voted against [pdf] Measure C by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin; that measure would have established the Jefferson Republic, one step toward creating a new state.

But voters in Tehama County went the other way. Their advisory ballot initiative, Measure A, passed by 56 percent to 44 percent.

Boards of supervisors in several other Northern California counties, including Glenn, Modoc and Yuba, have already voted to explore secession. Butte County supervisors have a vote scheduled for next week.

Together, the rural northern counties  represent a huge chunk of California’s landmass, accounting for an area about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. But only 467,000 residents live in those seven counties, meaning they only have one state senator representing them in Sacramento. By contrast, the Los Angeles area sends about 20 state senators to the capital.

Southern Oregon counties feel similarly underrepresented in Salem. Since 1941, officials in both states have proposed joining together to form the State of Jefferson; variations on that proposal would include between seven and 19 counties between the two states.

They got as far as picking a governor — a judge named John Childs was inaugurated in a big celebration in Yreka, on Dec. 4, 1941, just three days before Pearl Harbor. The would-be state’s flag included a big XX, which represented the double-crossing politicians in Sacramento and Salem. The movement died down as the U.S. entered World War II.

But even with a secession vote, don’t expect to see flags with 51 stars just yet. Both the state legislature and Congress would have to approve the split. Sorry, Tehama, you’re stuck with California for now.

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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