IT’S ON! Radical Plan to Split Up California Gets the News Nobody Expected

Could California finally be splitting up? People have been pushing for it for years, but a plan has finally made it on the ballot for November for Californians to vote on.

From LA Times:

California’s 168-year run as a single entity, hugging the continent’s edge for hundreds of miles and sprawling east across mountains and desert, could come to an end next year — as a controversial plan to split the Golden State into three new jurisdictions qualified Tuesday for the Nov. 6 ballot.

If a majority of voters who cast ballots agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan — far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels — would make history.

“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who sponsored the ballot measure, said in an email to The Times last summer when he formally submitted the proposal. “States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens.”

It would also save some of the areas that are less liberal from being trapped by the liberals of present California.

How would it be split?

In the initiative’s introductory passage, Draper argues that “vast parts of California are poorly served by a representative government dominated by a large number of elected representatives from a small part of our state, both geographically and economically.”
The proposal aims to invoke Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the provision guiding how an existing state can be divided into new states. Draper’s plan calls for three new entities — Northern California, California and Southern California — which would roughly divide the population of the existing state into thirds.

Northern California would consist of 40 counties stretching from Oregon south to Santa Cruz County, then east to Merced and Mariposa counties. Southern California would begin with Madera County in the Central Valley and then wind its way along the existing state’s eastern and southern spine, comprising 12 counties and ultimately curving up the Pacific coast to grab San Diego and Orange counties.

Under the longshot proposal, Los Angeles County would anchor the six counties that retained the name California, a state that would extend northward along the coast to Monterey County. Draper’s campaign website argues the three states would have reasonably similar household incomes and enough industries to produce their own viable economies.

Draper tried efforts in the past to split California but they didn’t make it this far. This time they found there was sufficient support to make it to the ballot.

If the voters approve the resolution, it would then need the approval of the California Legislature.

Draper’s proposal says the initiative, acting under California’s constitutional power of voters to write their own laws, would serve as legislative consent. It is almost certain that interpretation would end up in court.

From there, the plan would need congressional approval. Here, too, politics would presumably play a major role.

Where California now has two seats in the 100-person U.S. Senate, the three states would have six seats in a 104-member chamber. That would dilute the power of other states and increase the power of what used to be a single state if its six senators banded together on various issues.

Because it’s likely that one of the new states could likely be Republican inclined based on past voting, it would likely be fought by Democrats.

Amar wrote that Democrats would be “very reluctant to run the risk” of supporting the proposal in Congress. “And risk aversion looms large in these matters, which helps explain why no new states have been added to the United States in over 50 years, and no new state has been created out of an existing state for more than 150 years,” he wrote.

There also is a sizable debate about whether such a sweeping change can be created through a ballot initiative — that is, whether it rises to the level of a “revision” of the California Constitution, which can only be instigated by the Legislature or by a formal constitutional convention. Revisions, Amar wrote in 2017, are generally seen by the courts as the most substantial kinds of changes to a government.

“What is of greater importance to a state than its geographic boundaries?” Amar wrote. “As the national debate about a wall along the Mexican border rages, we are reminded that even in a digital age, physical space and physical lines matter immensely to the course of peoples’ lives, and the legal regimes under which they live.”

Draper is listed as an unaffiliated voter and was an investor in technology companies like Skype and Hotmail. He’s also been an outspoken advocate for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

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