The Jefferson State movement began long before the Reynolds v. Sims case abolished California’s “federal” representation in its Senate as well as requiring regular redistricting based on population. Nevertheless, better representation is promoted as one of the major reasons for splitting off from California.
The target area for Jefferson is 20 counties in Northern California. Presumably this new State will have a Senate where every county will have its own Senator, from tiny Sierra with 3,000 people to Placer with 367,000 residents. The result will be that the 5 counties in Jefferson over 100,000 may have some representation issues with Jefferson as rural counties do with California.
It’s true that excessive geography in a district compromises democracy and that is probably the strongest basis for revisiting Reynolds v. Sims in the future. But the argument that tiny counties should be able to cancel out the vote of the largest across the board is weak. In fact, California’s federal system never quite existed. There are 58 counties and 40 State Senators. The smallest counties always had to share a rep while Los Angeles got more than one.
Back before local government became a vast network of functions and programs connected with State and Federal governments, counties were basically the courthouse and the sheriff and not much else. It made sense that any fully functional county should send its representative to the Senate as sort of a “House of Counties.” Unfortunately, the expense of being a fully functional county at the bare bones level has skyrocketed. Many services that residents take for granted have regional boundaries spreading over several counties for economies of scale. Counties too small to pay their bills should not have their own representative as if they were independent in local functions and services.
The best example of what happens when local functioning isn’t a criteria for representation is our own U.S. Senate. The most populous 9 States make up over half the Country’s population. The bottom ten pop States scrape up a mere 8.7 million that out vote Senators backed by 162 million Americans. They are more like holding companies for local interests than self supporting States, offering the whole range of State services. Like the typical Jefferson backer, these micro States feel put upon, even with super representation. That doesn’t stop them from demanding bigger subsidies from the common till.
What most people don’t know is that the U.S. House of Representatives isn’t always “one person one vote” either. Due to population rounding, States with one or two Congressional Districts represent anywhere from 526,000 people per representative (Rhode Island, District 1) to 994,000 people (Montana). The average number of people in a Congressional District is 710,000. Simply because of mathematics, small districts of any kind are likely to be over or under represented. People who are under represented complain. People who get more representation than their share think of some reason why they deserve it.
If getting a federal style State Senate was a serious priority for new state advocates they should shift their movement to changing the structure of California counties, a far easier objective to achieve. This will also create a new legal theory for the Supreme Court to revisit Reynolds v. Sims. Paper counties need to merge with functional neighbors or break themselves up, attaching the pieces to other counties. Lake County is one pretend county that should split between the Putah and Cache Creek watersheds. The South half would return to Napa and Clear Lake would go to Mendocino, if they will have us.
Assuming some modern operations requires a minor metro city of at least 50,000 people. If a county doesn’t have one for the new federal Senate they must merge or split. Remember, this is also to support a new theory to overturn Reynolds v. Sims. If the State Senate is to be a House of Counties then all counties must be modern stand alone entities with a power center and not just a bump on the highway.
One wonders if the current Jefferson flare up is also a rebellion against popular representation, due to rural counties ending up unpopular on many hot propositions. This is reflected in vote totals for Proposition 215 in 1996 which passed in the State of California. But the Jefferson counties may be sore losers. Fourteen out of 20 of the coveted counties, which total 1,763,000 people, voted against Medical Marijuana. Could Jefferson be a new “reefer madness” state? Does the Jefferson crowd know how much a drug war costs? The rebels may have a rebellion within their own ranks in Mendocino and Humboldt, which smoked in with 64.5% and 57.1% of the vote. And just how would the State of Jefferson deal with the Emerald State movement?