BERKELEY (CBS SF) - The plan to split California into six smaller states is likely dead on arrival, and a closer look at the voting patterns in the prospective states illustrates why.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper is backing the plan to create the six states, and the proposal appears likely to land on the ballot in the next few years. The idea behind the measure, according to Draper, is to increase competition among the geographic region, and improve the overall representation of the residents of the current state. Most notably, the plan would add senators to the union to represent the newly-formed states. The current number of senators for the region would jump from 2 to 12, creating the potential for a significant power shift in Washington.
"The state of Wyoming has less population...even a place like Fresno has as many people as Wyoming," said CBS Political Analyst Marc Sandalow. "In Wyoming (they have) one senator for every 300,000 people. In California it's one senator for every 19 million people. This has real consequences."
Projecting what the voting habits of those six states would look like was the was the goal of U.C. Berkeley Political Scientists Ethan Rarick and Jack Citrin, who wrote about the proposal for the blog F0x & H0unds.
Under the plan, much of the Bay Area, including Santa Cruz and Monterey, would become the state of Silicon Valley. The northernmost counties would become Jefferson; some North Bay counties would become part of North California, an area that stretches through Sacramento to the Sierra; Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield would be among Central California's largest cities; Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara would end up in West California; and San Diego would become the major city in South California.
Based on the registration records of the states, Rarick and Citrin found that Democrats hold a commanding edge in registration in Silicon Valley, West California and North California. But the divide is two percent or less in Jefferson, South California and Central California, where the GOP holds a slight registration edge in each case. Each state has roughly 20 percent undeclared registration.
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Digging deeper into voting records, the researchers found that the three liberal states would have voted primarily democratic in nearly every state election since 2004, while the same is true for Central California backing Republican candidates. Jefferson leaned heavily republican as well, but would have elected a handful of democrats, including going blue for President Obama in 2008.
South California was found to be the most competitive mini state, with several candidates from each side of the aisle carrying the region in recent years.
How would those numbers translate to Senate seats in a given election?
"Examining the two most recent Senate races in 2010 and 2012 and using Boxer, Feinstein, Fiorina, and Elizabeth Emken as partisan proxies for the candidates who really would have been running, we see that seven of the 12 senators from the new California statelets would be Democrats. Democrats would hold both seats in Silicon Valley, West California and North California. Republicans would hold both seats in Jefferson and Central California. The Senate delegation for South California would be split," write Rarick and Citrin.
Under that scenario, both the Republicans and Democrats would pick up five new seats in the Senate, but that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a power shift. Sandalow speculates that even if many of the new senators were Republican, they would be more likely to be moderate and sympathetic to democrat-backed legislation than delegates from rural states like Alaska, Wyoming or the Dakotas. That shift could give new life to a piece of legislation like Cap and Trade environmental regulation, which passed the house but was killed by Conservatives in the Senate. That's why those states will likely block a required Constitutional Amendment on the Six States plan.
A similar pattern plays out in presidential elections, where researchers found that you would have to go back to at least 2000 to find a election where a the electoral collage change from the six state plan could have been a factor in the outcome. Still, the six fractured states would draw more attention from presidential campaigns than the larger, reliably liberal California voting block. Another reason the plan has little chance.
"There's no way that states like North Dakota are going to start giving up their power just because people in California want more," said Sandalow.
Rarick and Citrin agree, writing "we believe Congress would never approve such a plan, because it would dilute the political power of other states."
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