According to a memorandum released yesterday by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California voters will decide in November whether they want to see the third-largest state in the country divided into three separate states: Northern California, Southern California and California (new).
“We are not a one-size-fits-all state,” Citizens for Cal-3 campaign spokeswoman Peggy Grande told The Washington Post. “The needs of Silicon Valley are very different from the needs of the Imperial Valley, and so this is a great opportunity for the people of this state to really take that power and the future back into their own hands.
“There’s not a plan being dictated for the future,” she added, “but this is obviously a very important first step.”
Silicon Valley billionaire investor Tim Draper is the driving force behind this proposal — but it is not the first time he has tried. Both of his proposals in 2012 and 2014 suggested dividing California into six states, but both failed to get the necessary number of signatures to appear on the ballot.
This new proposal, however, focuses on offering residents benefits from three smaller governments.
“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Draper told the Los Angeles Times in an email. “States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens.”
“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,” Draper argues in the initiative, which has garnered over 402,000 signatures in the past year from every county in the state.
With more than 365,000 signatures, Draper’s initiative is eligible to appear on the November election ballot.
If the proposal becomes reality, it would divide California into three separate states with approximately equal populations. California (new) would encompass 6 highly populated coastal counties — Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and San Benito — for a population of about 12 million, according to Business Insider and The Washington Examiner.
Northern California would include 40 counties and about 13.3 million residents, encompassing the current state capital of Sacramento and the tech-heavy San Francisco Bay Area.
Southern California would have 12 counties — San Diego, San Bernadino, Orange, Riverside, Mono, Madera, Inyo, Tulare, Fresno, Kings, Kern, and Imperial — for a population of about 12.3 million.
Under this new government, according to election data at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, Southern California could potentially become a competitive swing state for the Electoral College.
The Cal-3 campaign offers a creative, albeit controversial solution for some of California’s biggest issues, such as quality of living, education and government regulation.
“This milestone is a testament to the energized spirit of Californians wanting to create a better future for themselves and their communities,” spokeswoman Peggy Grande wrote in a news release. “This November, all Californians have the opportunity to send the message they are ready for solutions to our most pressing state issues in failing education, crumbling infrastructure, sky-high taxes and stagnation in state government.”
“The California state government isn’t too big to fail, because it is already failing its citizens in so many crucial ways,” Grande continued. “The reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched, and overwrought state-government structure, it is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future.”
But not everyone is as optimistic about the outcome of such a drastic change.
According to Democrat political strategist Steven Maviglio on Twitter, “This measure would cost taxpayers billions of dollars to pay for the massive transactional costs of breaking up the state, whether it be universities, parks or retirement systems.”
“California government can do a better job addressing the real issues facing the state, but this measure is a massive distraction that will cause political chaos and greater inequality,” Maviglio, the spokesman for the opposing organization OneCalifornia, added.
George Skelley, associate editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, argues that there will be too many hurdles to even get the measure approved: “Politicians are naturally averse to making major changes, and creating three Californias would certainly be a political earthquake. Breaking up California into three states will require jumping through many hoops, and the first one — the voters — is likely to trip up the proposal.”
The most recent state division to occur was the creation of West Virginia in 1863, more than 150 years ago; however, California has been debating whether to remain a single state for even longer — since 1859, in fact. Draper’s initiative is one of over 200 attempts to split Northern and Southern California — and come November, voters will be able to weigh in on the longstanding issue for themselves.
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