A group campaigning to divide California into six new states turned in 1.3 million (more than the 807,000 required) signatures supporting their proposal on Tuesday, enough to put the measure on ballots statewide in the November 2016 general election. Before you start sewing new stars on your flags or hoarding soon-to-be-obsolete maps, remember that Congress would still need to approve the dissolution of "old" California and grant the six new regions official statehood.
The Six Californias Initiative was the result of a desire for more responsive local governments, brought about by a number of state crises and the opinions of some who say the state is too large to function properly. A representative government that actually represents the concerns and wants of its constituency is important, but what impact, if any, would the six-state plan have beyond local and state politics?
Using data from the 2012 election as reported by California's Secretary of State, let's first take a look at how the six proposed states would have voted:
In the proposed state of Jefferson, Mitt Romney would have squeaked out a win by about 12,000 votes. North California would have stayed, unsurprisingly, in President Obama's column by a margin of more than 250,000 votes. The inland valley region to become Central California would have gone to Romney by 30,000 votes. Obama's Hollywood buddies would have carried him to an easy win in West California by almost 1.4 million votes. And In Rep. Nancy Pelosi's backyard, Silicon Valley, Romney would have been clobbered by nearly 1.3 million votes. Further down the coast in South California, Obama would have carried the state, beating Romney by about 85,000 votes.
Long a stronghold of liberal Democrats, could a divided California offer a twist to electoral politics on the national level? Think back to high school civics class and hang on for some math.
Every state has two U.S. senators and at least one member in the House of Representatives, determined by the state's population. California is the most populous state in the country, so it has the most representatives of any state, 53. The number of senators plus the number of representatives equals the number of votes a state gets in the electoral college to choose a president.
It's all speculation, but here's my best gerrymandered estimate for how many electoral college votes each of the new Californian states would hold. Using California's state population as of the 2010 census (37,253,956) divided by the 53 congressional districts it was allotted, you get an average population of 702,905 people per congressional district. Based on this average, it's simple math to estimate the number of congressional districts, as well electoral college votes, for each of the proposed states, the population of which was estimated by the California Legislative Analyst's Office.
|Proposed State||Estimated Population||Estimated Number of
|West California||11.6 million||16||18|
|South California||10.8 million||15||17|
|Silicon Valley||6.8 million||10||12|
|Central California||4.2 million||6||8|
|North California||3.8 million||5||7|
Even if the ballot measure passes in 2016 and the new states are approved by the federal government, it doesn't look like the new arrangement would have much impact on the Electoral College. The difference six Californias would have had in 2012 is negligible — only 11 electoral votes would have shifted from Obama to Romney, certainly not enough to change the outcome.