Splitting California Into 2 States? Bad Idea. A Double Majority? Good Idea
Folks in Visalia are talking about filing a ballot initiative that would split California into two states. A liberal, Democratic one of 13 coastal counties, and a mostly inland, Republican state of 45 counties. (The plan would keep San Diego in the inland part of the state, which is hypocritical. We coastal folks want the whole coast).
This is a bad idea. Despite the rhetoric in this newspaper story about how LA and San Francisco are supposedly drains on the state treasury, the opposite is true: the cities and their economic activity subsidize the rest of the state -- especially folks in rural places like Visalia. The red state these folks want would be a large, poor place. That said, I do think there are some legitimate political grievances that folks in smaller counties have, particularly when it comes to direct democracy.
Take Prop 2, the initiative regulating farm animal confinement. A majority of California counties -- 41 -- voted against the measure; most of those were inland counties where the measure would have the greatest effect. But the initiative passed overwhelmingly because of the support of people in large metropolitan areas. This is unfair. In other parts of the world with the initiative process, there is usually a requirement that an initiative must get more than just a majority of the voting public to pass. It also must get a majority of the political entities in a particular province or country to pass. This concept is called "the double majority." In Switzerland, for example, an initiative needs a double majority -- a majority of all voters, and majority support in a majority of the provinces, or states -- to pass. In California, we could have the same thing by requiring a majority of voters and a majority of counties to approve a measure.
I also think the folks in Visalia, instead of leaving the state, might take a good look at some proposals out there for reforming California government along regional lines. As it happens, one of the best proposals comes from New America experts. That proposal is available here.