A look at secession from California by San Bernardino County and others

San Bernardino’s path to statehood is a long shot, necessitating approval from both the California State Legislature and Congress. Today we look at some other attempts to carve up the state.

Measure EE

Asked the electorate whether San Bernardino County elected representatives should “study and advocate for all options to obtain the county’s fair share of state funding, including secession from the State of California.”

The measure, put to San Bernardino’s voters on Nov. 8, was passed 51.3% to 48.7%.

How statehood is granted

The Constitution declares that statehood requires the approval of both the U.S. Congress and the state’s legislature. The territory applying for statehood must have a certain minimum population and a majority of its residents favor statehood. The process can take decades.

The last state to successfully secede was West Virginia in 1863.

1. The territory holds a referendum vote to determine the people’s desire for or against statehood.

2. Should a majority vote to seek statehood, the territory petitions the U.S. Congress for statehood.

3. The territory, if it has not already done so, is required to adopt a form of government and constitution that are in compliance with the U.S. Constitution.

4. The U.S. Congress — both House and Senate — pass, by a simple majority vote, a joint resolution accepting the territory as a state.

5. The president of the United States signs the joint resolution and the territory is acknowledged as a state.

A few attempts in California

There have been more attempts to divide California than anniversaries of its statehood in 1850. There have been at least 220 attempts to break up California. Here is a look at a few:

In 2018, a group proposing to split California into two states read its Declaration of Independence. The group, called New California, has been behind splitting the state up for several years and has proposed several different versions.

The plan was thrown out in California Superior Court.


A California venture capitalist named Tim Draper sought in 2014 to split the Golden State into six parts, including the state of Silicon Valley. It failed to make the ballot.

Draper made this statement when he announced the New California effort in 2018. “After years of over taxation, regulation, and mono-party politics the State of California and many of it’s 58 Counties have become ungovernable,” the group said in a statement, citing a “decline in essential basic services” including education, law enforcement, infrastructure and health care.

Pico Act, 1859

This proposal got further than any other. It was supported by Southern California residents who thought tax and land laws were unfair. In 1859, the Legislature approved the Pico Act, named after former Assemblyman Andres Pico.

The act called for the southern part of the state to be called the Colorado Territory. This new state would have included the area from San Luis Obispo, Kern and San Bernardino counties south. The governor signed the bill, and 75% of voters in Southern California voted for it as a referendum. The start of the Civil War was why the effort died.

State of Jefferson

One notable effort was the state of Jefferson proposal in 1941. Several counties in Northern California ceremonially seceded one day a week. The movement died down after World War II began.

In 2013, residents in Siskiyou County and Modoc County voted to join the state of Jefferson. The effort soon picked up support from supervisors in Glenn and Yuba counties.

In 1891, state Sen. McComas of Los Angeles proposed a North-South split along the Tehachapi Mountains.

1915, North South

In 1915, a northern organization, called the Peoples Association for Changing the Boundary of California by Amending the Constitution, was created. The association wanted to split off the eight southern counties for the following reasons:

• The south was trying to force its will on the north.

• Legislative measures supported by the south discouraged out of state investments in the north.

• Northern mining interests were being hurt by the south-supported laws.

• The south supported Prohibition.

There would be two new U.S. senators.

Dolwig Proposal, 1965

As the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s action in 1964, state Sen. Richard Dolwig of San Mateo proposed legislation for a north-south split.

Dolwig’s bill and constitutional amendment were approved by the north-dominated state Senate, but there was no action in the south-dominated state Assembly. Dolwig reintroduced his “package” in 1967, 1968 and 1970, but no action was taken on his measures after the California Senate was reappointed.

Collier Proposal, 1971

In 1971, state Sen. Randolph Collier introduced legislation to divide the state urban-rural.

Collier’s proposal was founded on the concept that the rural segments of the state would fare better if they were detached from the populous and powerful urban counties.

Collier introduced a similar package in 1975, but there are no recorded votes on either.

Stone Proposal, 2011

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone pursued a policy to create South California. The new state would have included the counties of Riverside, Imperial, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Tulare, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa and Mono. With 13 million residents, the 51st state would have had more people than Illinois. It also would have been a mostly conservative state.

The California State Library has an extensive timeline of attempts to divide the state here.

Sources: The California State Library,, The Associated Press, Politico,

State of Jefferson map is public domain







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