Blue state California has a huge population, 39.5 million and urban rents are high. There are 130k homeless people. New York State has another 90k homeless people.

Red state Wyoming has only 500k people, with a 2018 voter turnout of around 200k.

If the State of California or a group of private citizens acquires cheap land in Wyoming, builds a city, fills it with homeless people, and supplies them, with the intention to capture the congressional /Senate seats, what could the Wyomingers do to stop them?

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    Aren't you getting a touch too old for colonizing, Clint?
    – user6241
    Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 2:47
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    I think the question title is a bit unclear. What does colonizing mean in the context of US states? The states have a fixed territory. Maybe somebody can come up with a better formulation. I tried, but it was changed. Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 6:28
  • Are you asking about annexation? E.g. California annexes Wyoming and Wyoming is no longer a US state but rather is just a part of California. Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 19:02
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    – cat
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 20:53

8 Answers 8



This has been done in American history, in fact, though by religious groups rather than states! For example, see generally Nauvoo, IL, a city that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints built to consolidate power, but there are other examples.

What stopped the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from using this population growth to wield political power in the state of Illinois? Violence. With their founder dead and hostilities increasing from the non-LDS residents of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri (Nauvoo is near the border of all three), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints left to colonize another area, ultimately ending up in Mexico in an area we now call Utah.

If Utah had been in the US at the time, you could almost count the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints twice.

What you are proposing is perfectly legal. It is just logistically difficult (move these people, provide them a working city, ensure that they are inclined to vote the way you want without bribery), massively expensive (Billions, if not tens of billions of dollars), and one wonders who would foot the bill for such a scheme.

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    That's a very odd characterization of the founding of Nauvoo. They didn't go there to "consolidate power"--particularly not in the political sense--but for basic safety in numbers, to try to establish a refuge from the violence and persecution that had followed them everywhere they went for a decade and more. Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 16:26
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    @MasonWheeler I'm simplifying, of course, but it came down to "we're at risk wherever we're a minority, we need to be a majority if we will ever find peace." Going to Utah had a similar sentiment in mind.
    – Michael W.
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 19:38
  • It would be helpful if you could at least provide some resources about what happened instead of leaving it at the single word of "violence."
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 22:53
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    In regards to 'colonizing' by a religious organization, see the following more recent example: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajneeshpuram
    – Justas
    Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 20:13
  • I believe Libertarians have some designs on doing that too, based on an radio interview I heard...oh 20 years ago. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 1:33

Nothing. It's a constitutional right.

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

Source: Privileges and Immunities Clause (U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1)

  • This would be improved with a definition of what "Citizen [of a] State" means. Presumably merely living there counts? Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 16:51

Does this make sense?

In a comment, you said

California won't lose seats because they have surplus blue voters.

The number of "blue" voters is irrelevant. Under current law, apportionment is done by residents. If California moves some of its residents (even if homeless) to Wyoming, then apportionment will shift seats towards Wyoming and away from California. Now, if California did this with just the right number of people, they might not lose a seat and Wyoming might not gain.

Wyoming would need to add six or seven hundred thousand people to gain a seat. Right now, the only reason they get a seat at all is that every state is guaranteed one. They actually have fewer people than half of Montana. Without the guaranteed seat, Montana would have gotten two before they got one. Another state for comparison is Rhode Island, which just barely has two seats.

The next issue is that homeless people don't generally vote. Since Wyoming has a large surplus of conservative voters, a shift of few enough residents to avoid California losing a seat might not change Wyoming's voting habits.

What could Wyoming do?

Wyoming could reinforce this by requiring people to have mailing addresses and/or photo identification to vote. Since homeless people have neither of those things generally, they won't be able to vote. Currently Wyoming does not actually require this, but they do require that prospective voters show some form of identification. Wyoming voter registration requirements:

  • Present a valid Wyoming driver's license (If you do not have your current valid driver's license with you, you must provide the number along with additional acceptable identification as defined in Rules Ch 2: Identification for Election Purposes);

    • If you have not been issued a Wyoming driver's license or yours is expired, you must provide:
    • A statement to that effect;
    • The last four digits of your social security number; and
    • Additional acceptable identification as defined in rules.
  • If you have neither a valid Wyoming driver's license nor a social security number, please indicate this by checking the appropriate box on the Voter Registration Application form and contact your County Clerk.

So it is apparently up to the county clerk to verify the eligibility of people without a driver's license or social security number. Voters also have to not have had their voting rights suspended due to a felony conviction and must not be mentally incompetent. Many homeless would fail one or the other of those tests.

This already happens

All that said, New York City is actually doing this. They send homeless people to live elsewhere and pay the rent for a year. But they aren't doing it to colonize or get more seats. They have just found that it is cheaper to support someone almost anywhere else other than New York City. Their goal is to reduce their homeless population.

Other cities have similar programs, but they generally focus on moving homeless people closer to their support systems, e.g. family members. New York City's program may be unique in that it just tries to move homeless people away from New York City. The same people may become homeless again after a year. It's unclear if or how many return to New York City.

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    The "right number" of people is somewhere above the 200,000 proposed in the question. You note that the number required to cause Wyoming to gain a seat is far larger than that, but fail to take into account that this number is also probably too small to cause California to lose a seat, certainly too small to cause them to lose more than one. Also, under the proposal, the homeless people would no longer be homeless, so perhaps more inclined to vote, and the discussion of registration requirements is irrelevant.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 2:43
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    As far as I understand, Senate seats (and the Electoral College seats corresponding to those) would not be affected by the population change, though. The "colonizers" would just need to take care to keep the majority in the origin state to hold those seats.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 7:38
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    I think the "require proof of address, which homeless people generally don't have" is a non-issue: The suggestion is to buy land, build houses, and give them to the homeless people: "Move here, get a free house, then please vote Democrat!" Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 14:31
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    No matter how many people you move, you won't lose the senate seat. Any political party would gladly trade a chance at losing a house seat for a guaranteed two senate seats.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 18:23
  • @Chronocidal: Agreed, but then the Wyoming voter registration requirement could simply change to require proof that your grandfather was not homeless, or some such. Basically, the main defense against reactionary state legislation is federal legislation (and vice versa). Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 15:19

Nothing but it's harder than you think. The Free State Project has a stated goal of moving only 20,000 libertarians to New Hampshire to take over the state. These are dedicated, independent, wealthy individuals and yet it's a project that is over a decade old.

In the documentary Wild Wild Country the Osho guru attempted to moved thousands of followers into a small Oregon town and take over the local city and county. They even bused in homeless people, but the government retaliated by shuttering the local election voter registration office in clear violation of its own laws.

So in theory, nothing will stop them, but in practice, the local government will do whatever it wants to stop them. Governments don't have to follow the rule of law (which is a myth).


This seems kind of confused.

There's nothing an existing state can do to take some of the territory of another state against its will, if that's what you're asking about. Article IV, Section 3 (both clauses) of the Constitution covers how Federal and State territory is handled, and everything in there either states or strongly implies that no territorial changes can occur without the concurrence of both the US Congress and the state(s) in question.

Now if you are just asking about voting, are Californians free to go move to other states (thereby becoming eg: Wyomingites)? As citizens, sure they are. Will they be free to vote however they want once they arrive there? Of course they are. If there are a lot of them, will that change the state's voting behavior, and possibly even its elected officials? Certainly.

There's nothing at all untoward about this, or new. Its happened throughout US history. Jim Crow ended up chasing a lot of African-Americans into northern cities in the early 20th Century, which largely created the current political dynamic we have today with big Northern and coastal cities being much more Democratic than Rural (and particularly Southern) areas. More recently, housing price deltas have caused a lot of Californians to move to Colorado, which has been a large driver in its turn from reliably Republican to swing state, to leaning Democratic.

This is just a feature of honestly allowing citizens free movement, and the right to vote. You can't "fix" it, and if you believe in a free country, there's nothing you should even want to fix.

There is an underlying issue here of course. Due to the US's senatorial system (and its use in selecting presidents too), citizens of very low-population states like Wyoming typically have far more representation per voter than everyone else. I could see someone who is currently benifiting from that situation not liking a large population influx due to the potential of themselves losing power. However, there isn't a lot that can be done about it. The Supreme Court in 1973 ruled that residency requirements for voting longer than about 30 days are unconstitutional.


I think the framing of the question is flawed.

To vote in an election, you have to be a resident. Residency requirements differ from state to state, but each state has some. You can't, for example, change your address from California to Wyoming the day before the election, and then vote (legally) in the Wyoming election.

So, in order to meet residency requirements, you actually have to live in the place. When someone moves from California to Wyoming, they are no longer Californians, they are Wyomingers. So, in the next election, Wyoming residents will be voting in Wyoming elections, just as they always have.

Wyoming elections are decided by Wyoming residents. Anyone who moves to that state is a Wyominger, and no longer a Californian. It's just not possible for California to "colonize" another state, for any reason.

Edit I would like to further expound upon why it's not possible for California, or any other US state, to colonize another US state. First, we need to understand what a colony is. For that, we turn to a dictionary for help. The Cambridge dictionary will do nicely:

politics & government a country or area controlled politically by a more powerful country

So, even if a bunch of Californians move to a place in Wyoming, California doesn't gain political control of the place(s) they move to. Those places remain part of the state of Wyoming, no matter who moves there, or their purpose for moving.

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    Someone moving to a place doesn't make them not a colonist, though. That is literally part of the definition of being a colonist.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 18:23
  • @reirab You're claiming that any US resident who has moved is a colonist? If someone moves from Saginaw to Ann Arbor, they are a Saginawian colonist?
    – user151841
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 18:36
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    No, I'm not saying that moving is a sufficient condition to be a colonist, just that it's a necessary one.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 18:37
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    Your answer seems to state that they're not colonists because they're moving, which doesn't make sense because moving is part of the definition of being a colonist (the other part having to do with the intent of the move.)
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 18:41
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    After moving, they could elect their own state legislators and Governor to pass a bill adding Wyoming to California legally. :) This would require the consent of Congress, though, per Article IV, Section 3. On a more serious note, though, good edit.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 19:39

The reason this does not currently happen is that it would cost the state of California to move all those people to Wyoming. one for building a new city and 2 for buying all of the lands for the homeless people. most likely the state taxes would shoot up and everybody would move and the state of California would lose a lot of congressional seats making it an unwise decision.

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    "2 for buying all of the lands for the homeless people." That part would probably be relatively cheap. Wyoming has a lot of wide open land. You can literally drive hours between small towns. As expensive as California's taxes are already, I honestly doubt that would make a dent. The much more difficult part would be training 220,000 homeless people to do all of the jobs that are required for a city of 220,000 people to be maintained. If they could teach the people to do those jobs, they'd probably have already done so without moving them and they'd no longer be homeless.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 7:23
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    @reirab: But about half of that "wide open land" is owned by the US government (USFS, BLM, or National Parks). Another good-sized chunk is Indian reservation. Of the remainder, the parts that aren't either desert or mountain peaks can get pretty expensive. See the link under the question for some Wyoming real estate prices ranging into the multiple millions.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 17:40

As far as the land goes, especially in the western states like Wyoming, a large amount of land (sometimes even a majority of it) already has an owner, the federal government. The rest could be subject to eminent domain, to take the property from California before such a plan were implemented.

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