Breaking Up is Hard to Do

June 21, 2018

An initiative to partition California into 3 states is going to be on the ballot in November’s general election. Californians will vote whether to separate into three states: California, Northern California, and Southern California. If this referendum passes, then Congress will have to approve the decision.

The initiative was proposed by venture capitalist, Tim Draper, in a campaign called “Cal 3”. “Cal 3” received more than 400,000 signatures. This surpasses the amount required by California Elections Code 9035, which is five percent of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election. In 2018, 365,880 valid signatures are required.

For background, there have been at least 220 Efforts to split California up into smaller states – and at least five attempts since the year 2000. The Article Splitting up California: 7 times they’ve tried to break up the Golden State highlights some of historical proposals to split up California including:

  • PICO ACT , 1859
  • DOLWIG PROPOSAL, 1965
  • STATHAM PROPOSAL, 1992
  • STONE PROPOSAL, 2011
  • STATE OF JEFFERSON, 2013
  • SIX STATES PROPOSAL, 2016

The most recent proposal to split up California is the Cal-3 Plan. Tim Draper explained that the partitioning of California will result in more manageable populations. Under the current proposal each state would have about 12.3 to 13.9 million people. Some believe the split would be beneficial, specifically the increase in the number of U.S. senators currently representing Californians: “One big benefit we can think of: Right now, 39.5 million of us are represented by two U.S. senators, meaning we have the same influence in that body as the 579,000 people in Wyoming. That’s fundamentally unfair. Under this plan, there’d be six senators representing us.”

However, even if the initiative passes, it still faces the struggle of being approved by Congress under Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution as well as a number of other practical difficulties. Other news articles have reported on the potential difficulties which include:

Amending the California Constitution:

“The California Constitution says through the initiative you can change the constitution only so much. A small change to part of a constitution is called an amendment, while a holistic and fundamental change to a constitution is considered a revision. State law requires more than a vote by the people to enact a revision. The proposal to slice and dice California into three states bills itself as an amendment. Shaun Bowler, a political science professor at UC Riverside who’s studied California’s initiative process, says that’s wishful thinking. It would be incredibly difficult for California to split into three states. If it did, here’s how it would work…”

Also see:
Article XVIII. Amending and Revising the Constitution

Dividing the state debt: “Any partition of California would also require dealing with some complex practical difficulties, such as dividing up the state debt” … The Cal 3 plan leaves this up to “negotiation, with a default option of dividing up the debt between the three new states, in proportion to population.”

Dividing the public universities and prisons: “neither the prisons nor the public universities would be easily divided between the new states”

Splitting up shared assets like courts, water resources, infrastructure, bureaucracies.

Keeping an eye on how this initiative pans out will be interesting and worthwhile in the coming months.

Image Source: Brendan Hoffman/REUTERS

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