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California, There They Go!

January 14, 2014

CaliforniaEarlier this year, we told you about some communities around the country aiming to separate from their states to create brand new U.S. states. Add another candidate to the mix—this one’s in northern California.

In September 2013, citizens and officials in Siskiyou County, the northernmost county in California, met to discuss their dissatisfaction with, and alienation from, the state government in Sacramento. Siskiyou, along with a lot of northern California, is primarily rural, and the economy is driven by farming and logging. Much of the rest of California is highly populated, urban, and leans to the left politically. Feeling that they shouldn’t be government by a government that doesn’t have its needs at heart, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a declaration to secede from California.

It’s a longshot, but Siskiyou is no longer alone in its endeavor. Neighboring Modoc County officials have joined the secession movement. Officials in nearby Tehama County put a referendum on the ballot, to be decided by voters in June 2014. Seven other counties have since formed secession committees: Del Norte, Humboldt, Shasta, Glenn, Butte, Sutter, and Yuba. If the new state is formed, it would have an area of about 26,052 square miles, making it the 41st largest state (just behind South Carolina), and be the 47th most populous (just behind South Dakota).

Forming a new state isn’t easy. It’s only successfully been done once in the past 160 years: when West Virginia split from Virginia in 1863. Seceding requires a majority vote in the state legislature, and then in the federal House of Representatives.

Nor is this the first time a secession movement has caught momentum in northern California. In 1859, there was a resolution to split the state in two at the Tehachpi Mountains, which are just north of Los Angeles. The idea died when the Civil War began. The movement was revived in 1941, and was set to be voted on by Congress the week Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. entered World War II. Once again, the measure was overshadowed by war. In 1993, 27 counties voted in favor of a split proposed by assemblyman Stan Statham, but obviously it didn’t get anywhere.

The proposed name for the new state: Jefferson. In the 1941 campaign, counties from similarly minded southern Oregon (home of the B.R.I.) joined up with the northern California counties. Had that new state been created it would have been called Jefferson. The state flag: two Xs, representing a “double cross” by the state governments in Sacramento and Salem.

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