According to a news article by CBC, Californians will vote on whether to split the state into 3.

Which are the reasons that proponents of the initiative give in favor of it.

  • 1
    The cal3.com website (linked in the article) has a pretty good overview.
    – user11249
    Jun 15, 2018 at 12:16
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    I'd think the most significant functional difference would be its 40M people would now have six senators instead of two.
    – ceejayoz
    Jun 15, 2018 at 13:04
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    @MartinTournoij The website makes a lot of "everything is terrible in California and everything will be better if we split it in 3" promises, but while reading it I was really missing any strong arguments why exactly that would be the case. I don't want to imply that such arguments don't exist, but the website is really not making a good job at selling its idea argumentatively.
    – Philipp
    Jun 15, 2018 at 13:12
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    I had the same impression @Philipp, but that's what the proponents of the initiative give as arguments.
    – user11249
    Jun 15, 2018 at 13:32
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    A boost to the civil engineering and reconstruction industry, (well, after the fault lines have stabilized and no danger of further splitting). Jun 16, 2018 at 13:35

1 Answer 1


Source: Three Californias


The new states would have six Senators and fifty-nine electoral college votes while the current state only has two Senators and fifty-five electoral college votes.

They don't mention it, but this would also allow the Ninth Circuit to be split. Currently it covers the largest population due almost entirely to California, which makes en banc review extremely unwieldy. This would allow a Cal/Hawaii circuit and a NoCal circuit with everyone else. SoCal could go with either. Or split into three circuits.


The new states would have smaller, more responsive governments. Currently, all three regions share one single government. That one government has to try to satisfy all three. With the split, the smaller governments could satisfy more focused concerns of each region. They suggest that this would result in

  • Better schools.
  • Better water management.
  • Lower taxes.
  • A friendlier climate for business.


They don't actually explain how things would be better. For example, the District of Columbia is about 2% of the size of California, with very well funded schools. Yet its schools are also among the worst in the nation in terms of results, same as California. Why would being smaller fix California when it doesn't fix the District of Columbia?

Lower taxes seems a ridiculous argument. It would make more sense to argue that the split would allow higher taxes. Of course, this is the wrong split if that's the goal.

Same thing with a friendlier climate for business. California likes regulation. Why would that change?

Partisan impact

It's also questionable whether the United States Congress would approve this (and Congressional approval is required for the creation of new states). Two of the new states would be solidly Democratic and one (Southern California) would be a swing state. All three voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

From the Republican perspective, the best result would be if there were four Democratic Senators and two Republicans. But five Democrats and one Republican is more likely and six Democrats and no Republicans is possible. This means that it will either have the same result as currently, where California has two Democratic Senators, or worse results.

From the Democratic perspective, this is all upside.

Questionable necessity

There is no reason why California can't divide up its state government into three parts. It doesn't need to become new states to do this. It could simply change its constitution to have three governors and legislatures. You can see how this might work with self-rule in Scotland and Northern Island.

Questionable split

Three things leap out at me about the split.

  1. It essentially splits San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. The three new states each include one of those cities.
  2. It splits Los Angeles from Orange County, which is a suburb in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. And it splits San Benito from San Jose.
  3. It does not split the rural interior from the urbanized coast. So anyone who wants the rural interior to be free from interference by coastal urbanites is out of luck.

So it may help if

  1. You want to get rid of two of the three biggest metropolitan areas in the state but keep the remaining one.
  2. You want to split your suburb from its associated city but attach it to a different city.
  3. You want to avoid splitting the urban and rural areas. For example, Calexit would be more difficult if the areas that wanted to leave were in three states rather than one and bound to areas that did not want to leave.

The suburb/city problem is basically that the suburb uses resources of the city. The suburb residents commute to work in the city and participate in entertainment there. Under this plan, Orange would be negotiating with a different state for maintenance of roads that its residents use every day. Same thing with San Benito. And each would have to coordinate that with its own state. This isn't impossible. Other states have the same problem. But why create these problems in the first place?

San Benito could be in NoCal and Orange in Cal. SoCal would either have the smallest population or pick up some from NoCal. Or completely redo things. Jefferson could have the rural counties of the entire state. Silicon Valley could have San Jose through Sacramento. California could have Los Angeles and San Diego. This would still leave Orange as a Republican area in a sea of Democrats, but at least it would still be attached to its own urban area.

Or split San Diego from everyone else. Put Orange with the rural counties (although it doesn't really fit there other than its national partisan loyalties). Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento could be California. But what's the point of splitting Orange from Los Angeles just to put it with San Diego? That's even worse for San Benito. It moves from one really Democratic area to another. San Diego might be considered more moderate than Los Angeles. LA is not more moderate than Silicon Valley.

  • Orange and LA seem like very different politically and economically, I'm not sure why it's controversial to split them? #3 is far more important
    – user4012
    Jun 15, 2018 at 14:17
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    Just a note: Calexit is a bid for Californian secession, not for splitting the state into smaller parts.
    – Anoplexian
    Jun 15, 2018 at 15:14
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    @Brythan To get on the ballot, an initiative has to get a minimum number of signatures from voters. Those voters are signing off on the initiative as written. If you want to propose a different initiative, that initiative has to get signatures. You can't get signatures for one initiative, then apply them to a different one. Jun 15, 2018 at 19:40
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    Why would being smaller fix California when it doesn't fix the District of Columbia? Because the problems between the two are not the same. DC also has some of the poorest residents. Well funded schools doesn't make up for not having a well funded life. A well funded school can't do much if police sirens kept you up all night in your inner city apartment and you skipped breakfast cause you can't afford to eat.
    – Shane
    Jun 15, 2018 at 21:23
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    Yeah, this particular split doesn't make much sense. Add SF Bay Area, Sacramento, and San Diego back to California and then this proposal might make sense. Of course, it would then have no chance of passing the CA legislature, as the coastal areas would no longer be able to boss around the rest of the state and the CA legislature wouldn't want to create 4 new GOP Senators.
    – reirab
    Jun 16, 2018 at 6:36

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