Jun 12, 2018 | 5:30 PM | Sacramento Tim Draper, seen here submitting signatures for his earlier, six-state split of California in 2014, has qualified a three-state plan for California voters to consider on this November's ballot. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP) 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. Advertisement
It would be the first division of an existing U.S. state since the creation of West Virginia in 1863. (Jon Schleuss / Los Angeles Times)
“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.”
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. A rich history of wanting to slice up California or split it off »
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.
It was that issue — economic sustainability — that helped fell two of Draper’s previous efforts in 2012 and 2014 to create six California states. Critics said some of the more rural regions would suffer from extraordinary rates of poverty as individual states, while coastal communities would flourish in new, smaller states where the lion’s share of California tax revenue is generated.
Ultimately, though, it was a fumble by Draper’s political team that doomed the six-state effort. The campaign collected hundreds of thousands of signatures in 2014 on the initiative, only to see too many of them invalidated by elections officials.
Last September, Draper submitted the modified version that he calls “Cal-3.” On Tuesday, elections officials said a sample of the signatures projects more than 402,468 of them are valid — more than enough to be included on a November ballot that could see as many as 16 propositions by the deadline for certification later this month.
The cost of Draper’s 2018 effort is still unclear. While he spent almost $4.9 million of his own money on the unsuccessful signature drive in 2014, state records through last December report only about $559,000. That was before petition circulating intensified this past spring; vendors were told in March they would be paid $3 per signature — higher than many of the other proposals found on card tables set up outside stores and other public areas.
The history of California, admitted to the Union on Sept. 9, 1850, has been marked by more than 200 attempts to either reconfigure its boundaries, split it into pieces or even have the state secede and become an independent country. The last three-state proposal, crafted by a Butte County legislator, failed in the state Capitol in 1993.
A publicized effort by activists to have California secede from the United States, branded the ‘Calexit’ proposal , continues to be bandied about for the ballot in 2020.
Nothing about Draper’s historic demarcation of democracy would be easy. Were voters to approve his ballot measure, the effort would need the blessing of both houses of the California Legislature — lawmakers who, in a sense, would...