Whoever said that politics make strange bedfellows must have been thinking about California. When Bay Area tech venture capitalist, Tim Draper gave efforts by the Jefferson Declaration Committee a helping hand. Draper has received approval to gather signatures for a November ballot measure that would split California into six states. Draper is most well known for his support for a statewide school voucher initiative. Josh Richman reporter for San Jose Mercury News quotes Draper’s reason to split the state as infrastructure, “We spend the most and get the least.” While most editorials criticize Drapers idea as a laughable fantasy, some like the Los Angeles Times see it as devastating to the state calling the proposal the “balkanization” of California. Draper’s efforts might not find many supporters, but it has raised the profile of the efforts in Siskiyou County.
Glenn County recently became one the counties that voted to join the efforts of the Jefferson Declaration Committee to form a new state. Mark Bair, of the Jefferson Declaration Committee writes, “We have three counties now; two will vote to join us in June. Yuba County has an action item on the Declaration on the 25th of March and we make a presentation to the Sutter County Board on the 25th. Says Bair, the reason they are gaining ground is, “California is broken. Rural Californians have no representation and the Time Has Come For 51.” The Jefferson Declaration Committee has gained national attention, as well. CBS Sunday Morning recently interviewed County Supervisor Geri Byrne about the efforts to split the state. Says Byrnes about the attention “This is not a conservative vs. liberal or a Republican vs. Democrat, issue but a rural vs. urban. The north state no longer has a voice in its own governance. Our nation was created with a bicameral legislature; one house representing the population and the other house representing the new states which, regardless of population, wanted assurance that their regional interests would be protected. The Warren Court in its Reynolds v. Sims decision restricted states’ ability to have legislatures with disparate representation in their legislatures. The result was California’s senate going from one senator per county to a senate representing population only. At the time of the Reynolds decision, forward thinkers like Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois observed that the eventual outcome could be California being dominated by Los Angeles and San Francisco. Indeed, that is what has happened. ”
A reporter for the San Jose Mercury News quotes political science professor John Pitney at Claremont McKenna College, “The sheer size of California raises questions about representation and accountability. A single Senate district has more people than all of South Dakota.” While many people, both political and academics point out the obstacles that face the Jefferson Committee, none so far have said that is not within the constitution to split the state.
The latest proposal to split the state is one of many efforts over the past 73 years. One of the first attempts came from then Senator Randolph Collier and Judge John L. Childs. This movement started as a way for Southern Oregon Counties and Northern California Counties to gain a greater share of federal and state highway dollars. Reporter, Stanton Delaplane from the San Francisco Chronicle was sent to Siskiyou County to cover the story and earned a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts. The new State of Jefferson even elected a Governor, Del Norte County Judge, and John L. Childs. The efforts of Collier and Childs ended with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
In 1993 Assemblyman Stan Statham revised the notion that California was too big and introduced a bill to split the state in two. Later Statham would revise the proposal to spit the state into three states. The bill made it out of the Assembly, but failed to make it out of a Senate committee. Statham has not given up the dream of equal representation and is writing a book about the states issues called Two Californias. His website twocalifornias.com is up and running, to promote the benefits of a smaller government infrastructure that splitting the state would bring.