The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

There’s a plan to split California into 6 states. Here’s what it might look like.

Proponents of a ballot initiative aimed at splitting California into six states (or, more simply, one proponent: venture capitalist Tim Draper) may have collected enough signatures to put the initiative on the ballot. This is the beauty and the annoyance of California's initiative and referenda system. If you have enough cash, getting something on the ballot is relatively trivial, meaning that relatively trivial ideas -- like splitting California into six different states -- can be put up for a vote. (Happily, in this instance the federal government would have to sign off on the idea, which it will never do, because, come on.)

Draper's proposal is that California become six different states, each with its own capital and senators and so on. That's really one of the main selling points: Why should the millions of people in California have the same number of senators as the hundreds of thousands of people in Wyoming? And the answer is: Because you get to live by the coast and the redwoods and the beautiful people of Los Angeles and that is the price you pay. Everyone knows that.

Anyway, here are the six proposed states. They're based on existing counties, which makes the breakdown easier. The capitals aren't identified in the proposal, so we just guessed.

State Likely capital Population Area
Jefferson Ukiah 949,000 40,713 sq. mi.
N. California Sacramento 3,742,000 12,608 sq. mi.
Central California Fresno 4,125,000 45,962 sq. mi.
Silicon Valley San Francisco 6,597,000 8,402 sq. mi.
W. California Los Angeles 11,534,000 11,948 sq. mi.
S. California San Diego 10,505,000 36,439 sq. mi.

"Jefferson" is a cool name for a state. "West California" is a dumb name for a state. But the dumbest name is "Central California." It makes sense to refer to California's Central Valley as "the Central Valley," because it is central to California. It does not make sense to refer to a state as Central California because the California it is central to no longer exists. Why not, at the very least, East California, just to round out the compass?

The answer to that question of course is that Draper doesn't care, because this entire plan is really about creating Silicon Valley as its own state. Therefore Silicon Valley gets to be a state called "Silicon Valley," and it gets to make its politics and its money more dense, and everyone in the idyllic dream of Silicon Valley gets to be happy. And have two senators.

This is what that consolidation looks like.

Political distribution

Here's the breakdown of party registration in the "states" as independent countries.

Percent Democrat
Percent Republican
State Dems GOP Other
Jefferson 168,898 (33.78%) 178,894 (35.78%) 152,192 (30.44%)
N. California 818,072 (42.71%) 583,410 (30.46%) 513,784 (26.83%)
Central California 627,390 (37.62%) 648,852 (38.9%) 391,657 (23.48%)
Silicon Valley 1,665,400 (51.14%) 590,997 (18.15%) 1,000,246 (30.71%)
W. California 2,753,917 (48.92%) 1,279,173 (22.72%) 1,595,885 (28.35%)
S. California 1,658,993 (34.9%) 1,755,284 (36.93%) 1,338,962 (28.17%)

"Silicon Valley" is the most robustly Democratic. Notice what happens, though. Three states would handily elect two Democratic senators. The other three are much more balanced, meaning that they'd likely pick up one or two Democrats on the Senate side.

And then there's the House.

State Current D Reps. Current R Reps.
Jefferson 1 1
N. California 4 1
Central California 2 5
Silicon Valley 9 0
W. California 15 1
S. California 7 7

This is how California's 53 existing House districts overlap with the new states. Things would get shuffled around, and wouldn't change much (since the focus is population). But the short version of the story is that Silicon Valley and "West California" (why not just call it San Andreas or something, for God's sake) would not have to be beholden to the more rural areas.  At all.

Tax disbursement

In 2010, State Sen. Noreen Evans received a breakdown of tax revenue and tax spending by county in the state, which her office provided to us. As one might expect, the amount various counties paid in tax in 2010 didn't often equal the benefits received from the state. And, as you might also expect, the counties that had the lowest ratio of benefits received to taxes paid tend to be the ones that are joined together under Draper's plan. (Below, "ratio" refers to the number of dollars received in benefits for each dollar paid in taxes.)

State Per capita tax paid Benefits received Ratio
Jefferson $14,012 $26,906 1.92
N. California $25,372 $16,729 0.66
Central California $15,904 $23,634 1.49
Silicon Valley $22,756 $9,192 0.4
W. California $8,155 $4,995 0.61
S. California $7,710 $8,184 1.06

Less money going from Silicon Valley to the Central Valley, once they are two separate states. Whether or not this is intentional is left as an exercise to the reader, and the reader, being smart, attractive and generally savvy, will realize that the answer is yes.


As it is now, "Silicon Valley" would be the richest state of the new six, by far.

Average poverty level (2012)
Households over $200,000 in income
State Average income Poverty level $200,000-plus hholds
Jefferson $37,277 14.14% 1.86%
N. California $46,970 9.81% 6.02%
Central California $39,852 19.66% 2.46%
Silicon Valley $68,365 8.83% 11.4%
W. California $49,832 10.48% 6.35%
S. California $47,016 14.6% 4.58%


If you're curious, the racial make-up of the states wouldn't change that much.

Percent Hispanic

State Population Percent Hispanic
Jefferson 949,240 15.39%
N. California 3,742,229 21.18%
Central California 4,124,776 47.27%
Silicon Valley 6,597,332 26%
W. California 11,533,918 46.36%
S. California 10,504,924 39.43%

So there you have it. The six new Californias that will never exist would look like this if they ever came into existence which, for the second time in this sentence alone, they will not. Silicon Valley will just have to be content with its two senators and shipping tax money off to the poorer people of the Central Valley and having one of the highest standards of living in the country. We can get through this together.

Correction: This post originally said the initiative would be on the ballot in 2014. Since the deadline for that to happen has passed, it would likely be on the ballot in November of 2016.