There are forty State Senators in California, and they each represent about 930,000 people, but it wasn’t always this way. California used to follow the “little federal model”, where the Assembly districts were drawn to according to population, and the Senate districts represented between 1 and 3 counties.
Designed after the House of Representatives and United States Senate, this was meant to express the will of the people via the Assembly, with the advice and consent of senior statesmen in the Senate.
In 1951, the State Senate of California looked like this:
4.1 million people lived in Senate District 38, also known as Los Angeles County. Senate District 28, representing Alpine, Mono, and Inyo counties, was home to only 11,000 people.
The State Senate used to represent areas. The Assembly was drawn to represent roughly equal populations in every district.
And Then Somebody Sued
In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that all chambers of a state legislature must have their districts drawn by population, not area. The lawsuit was brought in Alabama, but the court decided that districts drawn simply by counties were unconstitutional, violating the Equal Protection clause.
The case was Reynolds v. Sims, and while thirty-two states immediately passed resolutions calling for a constitutional convention to overturn the decision, the effort failed, and districts all over the country had to be re-drawn.
Equal Protection, Is It?
Los Angeles County now contains 14 Senate districts. Senate District 1, our district, touches 11 counties. This means that Los Angeles County is 14 times more powerful than all the counties of Northeastern California put together.
It means that the folks making decisions about agriculture, water, and forestry come from a place that doesn’t have any farms, imports all its water, and has more cars than trees.
Equal protection, indeed.