With California being the third-largest US state in terms of land mass, covering a significant portion of the US West Coast, it has historically struggled to find state-wide consensus on political issues, as voters in rural parts of the state often face completely different circumstances than those who live in massive population centers like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Secession movements have arisen in various California counties throughout the history of the state, including recent efforts by Northern California counties to separate and create a new state called “Jefferson.”
Recognizing these political complications, venture capitalist Tim Draper, hailing from Silicon Valley, came forward with a plan to split California into six separate states in an effort to develop a more responsive political system. After attaining permission earlier in the year to collect signatures for a ballot initiative that would put a referendum on splitting the state six ways before voters on the November 2016 general election ballot, Draper pumped $2 million into a petition drive. Now, SFGate is reporting that Draper may have successfully gathered more than the required 807,615 valid signatures necessary to place the “Six Californias” plan on the ballot.
If the long-shot ballot initiative were to succeed, which would also require an act of Congress and support by the Democratic-controlled state legislature before going into effect, California would be split into six separate states: Jefferson, North California, South California, West California, Central California, and Silicon Valley. Each state would get two US senators and its own stable of congressional representatives. Draper claims to have received 1.3 million signatures supporting the ballot initiative. County registrars are currently verifying the signatures, and, if a sufficient number of them are valid, the question of splitting into six states will appear on the 2016 ballot.
Democratic politicians worry that, if the referendum were to make it onto November 2016’s general election ballot, it could draw large numbers of conservative voters to the polls, hurting the party’s candidates. However, if the plan were approved, according to analysis by The Washington Post, it could also give the Democratic Party more guaranteed US Senate seats. Draper theorizes that one of the major political parties will come to back his proposal, saying, “I don’t know whether it will be the Democrats or the Republicans but one of those two parties, at some time in the future, will politically want to have to have six Californias and I believe that it will eventually happen.”
Carla Marinucci at SFGate explained how the states would break down, “Under the proposal, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose would be part of the state of Silicon Valley, which would extend to Santa Cruz and Monterey counties; San Diego and Orange counties would be in South California; Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara would be part of West California. The Central Valley south of Stockton and the central and southern Sierra would be the state of Central California, while North California would include Marin and Sonoma counties and the greater Sacramento area. Rural counties in far Northern California would make up the state of Jefferson.”
Detractors have dismissed the initiative as a waste of time or a conspiracy to elect Republican politicians. Democratic strategist and Six Californias spokesperson Roger Salazar, who worked for the Clinton administration and Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, disagrees, saying, “California is a beautiful place to live, and any time you can get new ideas and have a conversation, it’s a good thing for California. If it helps to make government more responsible, that’s a good thing, too.”
Tim Draper feels that the competitive nature of the six-state solution would benefit California residents. Said Tim, according to CBS News, “With six, you do get a good sense that you can drive 45 minutes in any direction and maybe be part of a different state and it keeps those states on their toes.”
The petitions were submitted on July 15, after which time officials began the eight-workday signature verification process. Additional signature checks could drag the process out for up to two more months.