A group of Arizonans in Pima County, which is a relatively blue slice of a rather red state, are pushing to break away from Arizona and form their own state. This unusual (though not unprecedented) move would actually come with a lot of rewards. From KGUN9 via Ben Smith:

One group is so fed up with Arizona politics they want to break away and form a brand new state.  “Start Our State,” a new Pima County political committee, hopes to bring the initiative to voters in 2012.

Co-founders Peter Hormel and Paul Eckerstrom say the governor’s Federal lawsuit over immigration and new bills proposing to nullify Federal law are what sent their opinions over the edge.


He says with Pima County’s size and population, they could pull it off.  Pima County has more square miles than New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.  It has more people than Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont, Delaware and Alaska.

While the project is probably an extreme long shot at best, I’m surprised the general idea isn’t far more common in parts of large states, given the potential upsides inherent in the design of our Constitution.

After all, most of our states, especially the western ones, have little reason to be the shape they are besides what is basically historical accident. They often don’t follow natural borders, population centers, long established ethnic lines, or linguistic divides.

There is precedent for part of a larger state breaking away to form a new one. For Example, West Virginia broke away from Virginia at the start of the Civil War, and Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820, when it become its own state.

Rewards for being a breakaway state are huge

There is basically little downside to being a small state, but the benefits are great. Because our highly unrepresentative Constitution gives every state, no matter how small, two United States senators, as a voter in the new state of Pima, your vote in the Senate would instantly be worth about six times what it was as citizen of Arizona! As a result of disproportionately more power in the Senate, Pima would likely get many more billions in federal money. In addition, due to the design of the electoral college, their vote for president would be worth more than twice what it currently is.

There is also the benefit of living in a state where the state government and federal representatives are more likely to to be focused on your parochial concerns and aligned with your ideology. A serious issue as the rural/urban divide in voting patterns increases.

Breakaway states might be the only path to Senate reform

While the status quo bias is extremely strong against such things, it would be interesting if this effort succeeded in Pima and regions in other states, seeing the big rewards, followed suit–like Southern Florida, Austin, Texas, Inland California, and Western Oregon.

While highly improbable, I suspect a series of breakaway states rapidly changing the Senate size and balance of power is sadly one of the most likely ways to reform our highly unrepresentative Senate. Short of some huge shock that starts undermining the Senate power of the small states, I can’t see three-quarters of the states ever approving a Constitutional amendment to change the Senate.