A proposal to split California into three separate states is heading to the ballot in November.
The idea comes from a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Tim Draper, who recently wrote and sang a song (in public) about bitcoin, and has been advocating for a breakup of California for years. The argument pushed by backers of the initiative, dubbed Cal 3, is that the state is too big, and that splitting it into three would allow better local representation in state government.
But splitting the state into three could tip the scales toward Republicans, potentially breaking the full control Democrats now have of the state by sticking the very blue cities — Los Angeles and San Francisco — in two of the states.
The measure got 402,468 valid signatures, plenty to land it on November’s ballot. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla will ratify the measure on June 28, officially putting it up for a vote.
The proposal would split the state into Northern California, California, and Southern California — think North Carolina and Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, the proposals proponents say.
While the current California is deep blue on a statewide level, the plan would create two very blue and one likely red, or at least pink, state: “Southern California,” encompassing much of the Central Valley, Fresno, Bakersfield, Riverside, and San Diego.
“Northern California” and “California” would contain the liberal bastions of the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, respectively.
“The California state government isn’t too big to fail, because it is already failing its citizens in so many crucial ways,” Cal 3 spokesperson Peggy Grande said in a statement on Tuesday. “The reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched, and overwrought state government structure, it is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future.”
If the measure passes in November, the state legislature will have to sign off on it and send it to Congress, which would make the final decision about whether the state can be split into three.
There are reasons for both Democrats and Republicans to be wary of the idea. Three states would mean four new senators in deep-blue territory — which would certainly give Republicans pause — and Dems would be wary of losing their enormous blue block of Electoral College votes, which they rely on in the presidential election.
On the other hand, Republicans would gain at least one state with two senators, so it might not tip the balance of power as much as say, granting statehood to overwhelmingly blue Washington, D.C.
According to a poll conducted in April, only 17 percent of Californians support the plan.
It’s not the first time that an ambitious proposal has been put forward that would reshape the state’s government. Last year, the Yes California Independence campaign, commonly referred to as “Calexit,” didn’t earn enough signature to make it onto the ballot, despite the support it earned from Russian trolls.
And Draper’s been pushing the Cal 3 idea for years. He spent $5 million trying to get a prior proposal — Six Californias, which would’ve split the state into six — onto the ballot, according to the Sacramento Bee. In 2016, it didn’t get enough signatures and failed.
Cover image: Supporters of US President Trump hold a 'Make California Great Again' rally to support Los Angeles County's Republican candidates in the upcoming California Primary Election, outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California on June 2, 2018. (Photo by MARK RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)