Voters may have to wait two more years before they get a chance to decide whether to carve the Golden State into six mini-Californias.
With the deadline for the November ballot looming, Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist behind the “Six Californias” ballot initiative, said Thursday that he hasn’t decided whether to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot this year or wait until the November 2016 election.
It could go either way, Draper, who is on the East Coast this week, said in an e-mail.
He’s running out of time to make that choice. While Draper has until July 18 to collect the 807,615 valid signatures needed to qualify his measure for the ballot, officials from the Secretary of State’s Office have warned that Friday, is the deadline for turning those signatures in to county registrars across the state if he wants to guarantee a spot on the November ballot.
That deadline really doesn’t mean much, Draper said.
April 18 “is only a suggestion,” he said. “There is not a clear legal deadline to qualify. It’s more complex that that.”
While Friday might not be an official deadline, it means plenty, said Shannan Velayas, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen. It takes time for local counties to count and verify the signatures and more time for the state to determine whether there are enough valid signatures to put a measure on the ballot.
“June 26 is the drop-dead date for the November election,” she said. “We’re already past the time for a full count of the signatures,” which would be needed if the state’s random sample finds that Draper’s measure doesn’t have 110 percent of the valid signatures required.
While Draper said in his e-mail that “we are making good progress on the signatures,” he didn’t say that those needed signatures were already in hand.
And because the “Six Californias” campaign reportedly is paying professional circulators up to $3 for each signature they collect, “if they’re still having problems, it says something about the measure they’re promoting,” said Steve Maviglio of “One California,” a group formed to oppose Draper’s initiative.
The new states are the only thing small about Draper’s plan to remake California, which he characterizes as an incubator for new forms of government.
“California is bleeding jobs, failing our K-12 students, suffering too much recidivism and ignoring needs for infrastructure,” Draper said. “Six Californias allows Californians and their counties a choice of six fresh governments that can encourage businesses to stay, improve education for our children and grandchildren … and smooth our traffic, fix our potholes and tighten up our water systems.”
The plan would preserve the existing 58 counties, but combine them into six new states: Jefferson, which would be everything north of Sonoma County; North California, which would include Marin, Sonoma and Sacramento counties and extend to the Nevada border; Silicon Valley, which would flow south from San Francisco to Monterey and include the East Bay; Central California, stretching from Stockton to Bakersfield and including most of the state’s agricultural heartland; West California, running along the coast from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles; and South California, which takes in Orange and San Diego counties, sweeping east to Nevada.
Even if California voters approve the split, there still will be plenty of hurdles to jump before the plan becomes reality. The measure, for example, would allow each border county to vote on whether it wants to become part on their new adjoining state.
Representatives of the six new states also would have to decide how to divvy up California’s existing resources – office buildings, fire stations, highways and state vehicles and equipment, not to mention the money in the state treasury.
The federal government also would get involved, because under the Constitution, Congress has to approve the admission of any new states. That pours even more politics into the measure, because the addition of 10 new senators could have a dramatic effect on national politics.
Opponents argue that the “Six Californias” plan is a bad idea that is so complicated it will never happen and that even considering such a landmark change causes unnecessary worries for people seeking to do business with the state. If it’s going to be on the ballot, they would like to get the vote over with as quickly as possible.
The measure “is a silly argument,” Maviglio said. “Keeping it up over a prolonged period won’t help California.”
But for Draper, who put more than $20 million into an unsuccessful school voucher initiative on the 2000 ballot, a delay might not be a bad thing, because it would allow more time for discussion of a plan that so far hasn’t gathered much public support.
“Six Californias has created plenty of interest and has sparked some real conversation about the unwieldy direction of our state,” he said. “This initiative is about rebooting the state to give a fresh view of how to tackle problems that seem insurmountable today.”