How Do They Choose?
For the purpose of choosing members of the Legislature, the State shall be divided into 40 Senatorial and 80 Assembly districts to be called Senatorial and Assembly Districts. Each Senatorial district shall choose one Senator and each Assembly district shall choose one member of the Assembly.
— California State Constitution
A little over 38 million people call California home. With 80 Assembly Members, each represents around 475,000 Californians, and each of the 40 Senators represents nearly 1 million people. California has the largest population of any state, but one of the smallest state legislatures. The Legislature, however, began life in 1849 with only 16 Senators and 36 Assembly Members. Half of each house came from the mining districts of Sacramento and San Joaquin! Today, however, most representatives come from the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego, where our state’s population is concentrated.
Another indicator of the influence of the Gold Rush influx on California was that none (so far as we know) of the first Assembly Members were from California, and only two Senators were born in the Golden State! Today, a far greater percentage of native Californians serve in the Legislature, but there are still many from other states and several from other countries. Nor are they all attorneys in their private lives or full-time legislators: We have engineers, business owners, doctors, educators, military reservists, farmers and ranchers, and even a 911 dispatcher!