Every once in a while somebody proposes splitting one state or another into two or more states but it’s nearly always a fantasy—it will never go anywhere. A smarty-pants Silicon Valley venture capitalist has come up with a plan to split California into six states, pictured above, and there’s actually an outside chance it could happen:
Draper’s plan is controversial, but he’s got permission from Secretary of State Debra Bowen to start collecting petition signatures to qualify for a ballot. A total of 807, 615 registered voters need to sign Draper’s Six Californias plan in 150 days before it can be put on the next state election.
Article IV Section 3 of the U. S. Constitution prohibits states being carved out of other states other than under limited conditions:
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.
California’s initiative system (they call them referendums but they’re initiatives) is quite robust and I strongly suspect that a well-written initiative could pass and would force the state’s legislature to approve the division. Whether the Congress would approve such an act is anybody’s guess.
However, let’s ignore whether it will happen for a second and consider the implications of its happening for a bit.
I think that dividing the state along the lines shown above would be good for “Jefferson”, “North California”, “Silicon Valley”, and, possibly, “West California” and a disaster for “Central California” and “South California”. The new state of “Silicon Valley” would have the highest per capita income of any state; “Central California” would have the lowest. “South California” would be starved for water. The bulk of its water comes from three sources: the Colorado River via the Colorado River Aqueduct, the State Water Project, and the Owens Valley. “South California” would have control of none of these.
Politically, by my reckoning the division would probably increase the Democrats’ margin in the Senate by two—”Jefferson” and “Central California” would probably elect Republicans, while the other four new states would elect Democrats. I don’t know what effect the new map would have on the House—it might well result in no change at all.
If the constitutions of the new states followed California’s, I’m skeptical that the new division would be stable. Once it had been shown to be possible I think the temptation to further divide the new states would be irresistible.