Last month I went on vacation to a few places including a few stops in California. My visit in Redding was honestly unpleasant. The air quality was horrible, due to local wildfires, and it had a downstream effect on the city as a whole. Much of the city was empty, like a ghost town. It was never designed to be walkable, but I also couldn’t get a Lyft or Uber while there. Public transportation was also severely limited.
All that is to say that if I lived in Redding, I probably wouldn’t want to keep living there. In fact, enough people have moved out that California lost a seat in the house, while other states like Texas and Florida have gained seats.
While there are some concerns about Republicans using the redistricting process to unfairly gain seats, I’m not sure that plan will pan out long term. I’m thinking a lot about what is going to happen to the 40 million people who will not want to stick around for the encroaching wildfires, excessive housing costs, droughts, and power brownouts. Many may leave, and it’ll be enough to have some significant political impact.
In the recent presidential election, California cast 17.5 million votes, of which 11 million (63%) were for the Democrat candidate. Now we can’t assume they’ll consistently vote Democrat, but let’s say for argument that they do. Let’s say this diaspora of 63% Democrats moves to nearby states.
Montana is a beautiful state in the Pacific Northwest with plenty of mountains and forests, making it a great place for Californians to move to. About 600,000 votes were cast, of which 343,000 (57%) were for the Republican candidate. With a margin of under 100,000, it would take less than 1% of California voters to move to Montana to sway that state in a new direction.
Idaho is another state in the Pacific Northwest with a small population. Of the 868,000 votes, 554,000 (64%) went to the Republican candidate. About 275,000 Democrats from California would need to move to Idaho to flip the state, which is about 2.5% of voters.
Wyoming has fewer people in the state, but a larger partisan lean. Of the 276,000 votes cast total, under 200,000 (70%) went to the Republican candidate. Although there’s a large gap percentage-wise, only 120,000 California Democrats could move there and that’s just over 1% of the group.
A number of people and businesses have been moving to Texas, one of the larger states. While it seems to be moving more towards Democrats with each election, the gap is still 630,000 votes (6%). Perhaps as more Californians move here, they will have a bit of an impact in this state election too.
The first three states make up 10 electoral college votes, while Texas represents 38 and will get one more next election. These may not seem like very much, but these are just a few examples of the large size of California relative to other states. It won’t take that much for ex-California voters to impact other states. It is like the US manufacturing battleships and dropping them into the Pacific theater during WW2.
It seems very likely that California has hit its peak population, and that we will see many people look for opportunity elsewhere. The group that will leave will likely be more affluent, who can work remotely and afford a nice house in a more hospitable climate. This group is also more likely to vote Democrat.
By sheer size alone, a small percentage of this group leaving can have a major impact on electoral politics and it may significantly change the political leaning of states assuming politicians play by the rules.