They came by the dozens, then hundreds.
Fueled by frustrations over a perceived unequal representation in state government, supporters of creating a new state in Northern California packed the El Dorado County supervisor’s chambers in an effort to win their support.
The state of Jefferson would be made up of California’s 20 northernmost counties with a population of approximately 1.7 million people, similar to the number of people living in Idaho.
“We just hope that the Board of Supervisors will actually see for themselves how much enthusiasm there is for people in El Dorado County, that want more representation,” state of Jefferson organizer Mike Thomas said.
Under the current vision, each of the 20 counties would have one state senator, while the 60 assemblymen would represent districts based on population size.
Currently the region in question is represented by just six lawmakers in Sacramento. The rest of California has 114.
“We have 11 counties up here with one state senator, L.A. County has 11 senators so you can see the mismatch,” Thomas said. “Our founding fathers never envisioned that a state would actually do that.”
Jefferson supporters presented before the supervisors and standing-room only crowd for about 45 minutes, hoping to convince them to issue a declaration saying the county intends to join the new state.
Eight Northern California counties have already thrown support for the new state. They include Modoc, Siskyou, Glenn, Tehama, Yuba, Sutter, Lake and Lassen counties.
In order for it to become a state, Jefferson would need a majority of votes in both houses of the California Legislature and Congress.
New states have been formed this way, but it hasn’t happened for a long time. Maine was the last state to do it when it split from Massachusetts — in 1820.
A group called Keep it California also presented before the supervisors.
Organizer Jamie Beutler acknowledged representation is an issue, but said Jefferson isn’t the solution.
“It’s much easier to work with what we have and solve our problems, which we believe can be solved, than to form an entire new state, and start all over again with all of the unknowns that there are,” Beutler said.
Many said they were drawn to the idea of Jefferson, but remained skeptical.
Maggie Cogburn came here with her husband and wanted to learn how the logistics would work.
“It’s pretty much in line with what I’ve already known, I’d like to hear more details on how are they going to do a lot of things,” Maggie Cogburn said.
For others, the small government low taxes message struck a chord.
“Southern California and Central California has been dictating to the rural counties, and overriding our votes,” said Terry Willhoit. “We’re having to live to their standards in the metropolitan big cities, and we’re not big city people up here, we are hometown people.”
The supervisors did not vote on the state of Jefferson but promised to look into it more closely.