Tim Draper, a venture capitalist whose firm holds over $7 billion in assets, thinks that we need more Californias — six, to be precise. Or, at least, he thinks that the one California that we already have should be split into six pieces, each with its own slate of electoral votes and its own representation in the United States Senate.
Draper offers five reasons for backing this plan, one of which is fairly compelling: “It is about time California was properly represented with Senators in Washington.” Because the Constitution allocates two senators to each state regardless of population, the Senate is an absurdly malapportioned body and California is the biggest loser as the nation’s most populous state. The state of Wyoming has exactly as many senators as the state of California, even though there are approximately 66 times as many people in California as there are in Wyoming. If Draper’s plan split California — which gave nearly 60 percent of its votes to President Obama in 2012 — into 4 blue states and 2 red states, the result would be a net gain of two senate seats for Democrats.
These two seats would come at a high price for Democrats, however, and that’s assuming that the four left-leaning sub-California’s were solid blue states. The portions of California that were majority Republican would be likely to give their electoral votes to the GOP candidate. Thus, even under a particularly optimistic scenario for Democrats, they would trade a gain in the Senate for a reduced opportunity to capture the White House.
Draper’s donor history is rather eclectic, so it is less clear what his real motivations are for backing this effort than it would be if the initiative were backed by the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson. At the presidential level, Draper donated to Obama in the 2012 cycle, to both Obama and Romney in the 2008 cycle, and to Bush in both of his presidential runs. He’s also made large donations to both the Democratic National Committee and the California Republican Party. At the congressional level he’s largely preferred Republicans, although he did back conservative Democrat Ed Case in his bid for a U.S. House seat from Hawai’i.
Regardless of Draper’s motivations, however, it is not at all clear whether he could actually succeed in splitting up his state even if his initiative passes. The Constitution provides that “no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.” Even if a ballot initiative can count as the same thing as California’s state legislature providing consent, a proposal that so drastically allocates political power in the Senate and the Electoral College is unlikely to survive contact with the Congress.