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California Proposition 9, Three States Initiative: Pros and Cons

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Recently, the measure proposing California to be split into three separate states was removed from November’s ballot following the order from the state’s Supreme Court. Now, I realize this isn’t an initiative that is available to vote on in the upcoming month, but I still think it’s an important topic that needs to be discussed. This is far from the first time the Golden State has flirted with a break-up, and probably won’t be the last, as there have been 200 prior long-shot efforts in the history of the state. The idea, as any other proposition, has a lot of opposing opinions, so I figured it would be reasonable to list the pros and cons of Prop 9. Though it is not very feasible that  this “idea” might meld into a reality, it is still a relevant proposition to understand. Keep in mind some of these pros and cons might be in opposite categories depending on which party you lean towards, so I’ll try to stay neutral as much as I can.

What Exactly Does Prop 9 Advertise?

Before delving into the pros and cons, it is important to fully comprehend the details the proposition itself suggest. To start off, the most recent reason this long-lasting measure gained traction was thanks to support from legendary Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper. Under the proposal, California would be split into three territories, each containing about a third of California’s population. To give context, our new states would be titled Northern California (including the 40 counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area and those north of Sacramento), Southern California (comprised of 12 counties: San Diego, Orange, Riverside, Fresno, Mono, Imperial, Madera, Inyo, Tulare, Kings, and Kern), and California (consisting of 6 counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbra, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey). Putting it simply, the rationale behind this proposition is that because California is the most populous state in the nation with 39 million residents, having three states gives Californians three times the amount of representation in senate and allows legislatures to tackle issues closer to home.

Pros

  1. According to a Cal 3 representative Peggy Grande, portioning the state would allow legislatures to make more reasonable and thoughtful decisions for their communities and citizens. Grande suggests, “The California government isn’t too big to fail, because it is already failing it’s citizens in the most crucial ways… The reality is that for an unmatched, overstretched, overwrought state-government structure, it is too big to succeed.” Essentially, a state the third the size of California would be much simpler to manage in comparison to the giant task we currently have at hand.
  2. Though the number of Congressmen is based on population, each state gets two Senators, so California would gain four seats in Senate, and because California is a very Democratic state, it is no wonder that most of these Senators would be Democrats. This would shift Senate slightly to the left, giving a more well-rounded ratio of Republicans to Democrats, as well as broadening the equal representation of the people of California.

Cons

  1. Just because having a tilt to the left in Senate can be viewed as a positive, the Electoral College might tell a different story. For example, say the divide were in effect in 2016. According to an analysis by the Center For Politics at the University of Virginia, Hillary Clinton would have won all three Californias, meaning she would have beat President Trump by more than 30 percentage points in North California and California, as well as by 10 percentage points in Southern California. No matter which candidate you preferred, it is a drastic change in the country’s political climate. Yes, you can argue that because California is so gigantic population wise, this adds a more accurate representation of it’s citizens, but what about Texas and New York- the second and fourth largest states in the country? Both states often turn red come election time, and though their populations are not as large as California’s, they are still outliers. Bottom line, if California gets more representation in the Electoral College, should Texas and New York?
  2. On an economic note, Shaun Bowles, a political science professor at University of California-Riverside, has doubts about the arbitrary manner regarding how borders and lines would be drawn and how they affect less affluent parts of California. He uses an analogy, stating, “… the state is divided into districts, like in ‘The Hunger Games’- and we (Southern California) are seen as the Farming District.” Out of the three newly proposed states, Southern California would be the poorest, with a per capita income of $34,000, while Northern California would be the nation’s second richest state, with a per-capita personal income of $63,000.
  3. Along with two new states, we would have the task of managing two more state governments, translating to having to build and maintain two new state capitols, state constitutions, elected bodies, and legal systems. This turns into an necessarily large overhead expense that will only inevitably grow over time.
  4. California’s education systems would also take quite a blow. We currently have flourishing UC and Cal state university systems, which would be broken up and divided. (See picture at right.)

Will It Happen?

Probably not. Article IV, Sec 3 is relatively clear that a new state within a state or between two states would require approval of existing state legislatures in addition to Congress. Thus in the case of California, regardless of the referendum vote, it would still have to go through Congress and state legislatures. Both Republicans and Democrats risk a lot approving this proposition; it would potentially cost seats in Senate and the House of Representatives. For Democrats specifically, Southern California would be highly contested for each election and would definitely turn red more than our current California. Because of these reasons, both parties would be hesitant to approve it in Congress.

The fruition of the measure that proposes three new Californias is unlikely to happen, but still serves as an important reference to the current status and overall opinion of our state and nation.

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