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There are 80 seats in the California Assembly and 40 seats in the California Senate. The last time the Golden State adjusted the size of its legislature, in 1862, there were about 400,000 people living there. Today, more than twice that number live within the city limits of San Francisco alone.
With a population of nearly 40 million, California's state legislative districts are the largest in the country. Since voters in the state send 53 representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives, the state's upper chamber is one of just two (the Texas Senate is the other) where members represent more people than does the average member of Congress.
The seemingly out-of-whack ratio of legislators to constituents has resulted in an accumulation of power by the state's executive branch and has diluted the electoral power of rural areas and political minorities, according to Michael Warnken, a California-based libertarian activist who is part of a group that's trying to get federal courts to force the state to add more seats to the state legislature. "It's impossible for the people of California to have a relationship with their state lawmakers," he says.
In turn, the expansion of executive power has given such agencies as the California Air Resources Board and the California Coastal Commission outsized authority to unilaterally write regulations that should fall within the legislature's purview.
Putting voters back in charge of the state government requires having more representatives in Sacramento, activists argue. Their lawsuit was launched by a coalition that includes the California Libertarian Party, the Marin County Green Party, a group of Native Americans, and secessionists who have sought for years to form a new state, Jefferson, out of portions of northern California and southern Oregon. Former federal judge Alex Kozinski is helping litigate the case.
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