BREAK UP: Will California splinter into 6 states? Voters, Congress could soon decide

Sees opportunity on ballot to be ‘awesome’

There’s nothing like a guy with a few million bucks to lend instant credibility to a previously penny-ante movement to split up the state of California.

Venture capitalist Tim Draper of Silicon Valley has filed paperwork for a November ballot measure that would divide California into six states, calling the Golden State as presently constituted “too big and bloated.”


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“Six Californias is an opportunity, an opportunity for Californians to get a fresh start, an opportunity for Californians to build new platforms for growth and prosperity,” Mr. Draper said at a Dec. 23 live-streamed press conference. “An opportunity to be awesome.”

Mr. Draper’s involvement was an unexpected Christmas present for Mark Baird and Liz Bowen, who live near the Oregon border and help lead a group that has been working to split off California’s northernmost counties into a 51st state called Jefferson.

Mr. Draper’s proposed six states are called, from north to south: Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, Central California, West California, and South California. His money will be needed: Proponents need to collect 1 million signatures just to get the idea on the ballot this fall.

“I think it’s wonderful and excellent that someone of means has taken in an interest in our lack of representation,” Mr. Baird said.

The Jefferson state movement isn’t the only secession undertaking in California — similar discussions have cropped up in the Central Valley and Southern California — but Mr. Draper’s decision to join the grass roots is a potential game-changer.

A third-generation Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Mr. Draper, 55, grew up in California and founded the firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. He also is known as an education maverick: He launched the Draper University of Heroes in San Mateo, a private boarding school program designed to help students ages 18 to 26 become entrepreneurs.


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Mr. Draper said California has gone from being a national leader in education and infrastructure to a dysfunctional and unwieldy collective that has become “untenable and ungovernable.”

“There have been many good people governing our state for many years and they work very hard for Californians, but the results are horrendous,” he said. “We are the state that charges the most for the worst service. We are simply too big and bloated. This is not the fault of anyone. This has just happened. The status quo is not going to work for us.”

Ponying up

Mr. Draper has shown that he is willing to put his money where his mouth is: He sank $20 million into Proposition 38, a 2000 initiative to create a state-funded private-school voucher system. That measure lost by 71 percent to 29 percent.

Asked how much he plans to spend on the initiative, Mr. Draper said “as little as possible, but I will make sure it gets on the ballot so that Californians have a chance to make this a reality.”

Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College, said California’s sheer size — the state ranks first in population with 38 million and third in area behind Alaska and Texas — lends credibility to the ungovernable argument.

“There’s more than a germ of truth to that,” said Mr. Pitney. “Just look at the size of our state Senate districts — any one of them has more people than the entire population of South Dakota. So there are real questions about the relationship of the people to their government.”

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