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Voters Will Get to Vote on Six Californias Plan in 2016

Have you heard about the six Californias initiative?  It is a slightly-less-than-crazy idea to break the State of California up into six smaller states.  The idea is that the current state is so big that is has become ungovernable, while at the same time California’s federal influence under-represents our population and economic contribution in Washington, D.C.  Six smaller states would be more responsive to local concerns, while at the same time increasing the influence of Californians (or former Californians) in the federal government.  Six Californias is backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Timothy Draper and has secured over one million signatures, far more than the amount needed to place the initiative on the ballot box in 2016.  So there it is — in two years we will be able to vote whether or not to blow up California and divide it into six pieces.  Well, almost.  Congress will need to approve the plan before it could actually happen and that is about as unlikely as the initiative succeeding at the ballot box.

The video below explains the proposal:

What would six Californias look like?  Orange County ends up in a state called South California, lumped in with San Diego, Riverside, Imperial and San Bernardino Counties.  South California is the orange region in the map below.  The five other former California states would be: Jefferson (blue), Silicon Valley (yellow) and the creatively named North California (purple), Central California (red) and West California (green).  OK, so some of the names are terrible.  The map below illustrates the organizer’s plan and shows which counties fall in which proposed state:

source: Six Californias (

The idea of balkanizing California is not a new one.  One of the more popular proposals is to split California into three states consisting of essential Jefferson (blue region), Southern California (orange, green and Kern County) and Northern California (purple, yellow and red, excluding Kern County).  Short of divesting the State, there have also been movements around drafting a new Constitutional convention that would be tasked with shredding the existing State Constitution and drafting a new one.  Neither of these, nor any similar concept has ever gathered much traction.  Apparently the only thing Californians dislike more than living in California is not living in California.

One of the criticisms of the six Californias plan (aside from its snowball’s chance of actually happening) is that it divides the State’s natural resources, job centers, beaches and population centers too thin.  To win the voters, each new State will need to feel as though they are getting all the good parts of California while shedding the bad parts.  Thanks to the Northern California/Southern California rivalry, that’s actually possible.  But if you subdivide Northern and Southern California again, then you start alienating voters in big numbers.  Six Californias can’t afford to lose any more public support.  Already a long shot, a recent poll revealed that 59% of Californians opposed the idea.  Further, the more you subdivide California, the more complex the negotiations over contentious issues like public debt and water rights will be.

But the idea isn’t totally without merit.  California has been so gerrymandered that only a tiny portion of our state legislative districts are remotely competitive resulting in corruption, gridlock and partisanship.  On a national level, California is so firmly blue that neither Republican nor Democratic candidates pay the State much attention during the campaign, further eroding our influence on national policy.  Geographically, there is some logic to the proposal as well.  If you were drawing state boundaries on a blank slate, it is hard to argue with the logic behind breaking California up into two or more states.  As the video says, California is larger than New York, Pennsylvania and seven other eastern states combined.

Pro or con, it looks like voters will hear a lot more about Six Californias in the next couple of years.

If you are interested in learning more, Six Californias maintains a web site here, and there is a FAQ here.  A copy of the proposed ballot initiative text is available here.


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