Capitol Alert

Calexit group files for 2018 vote on whether California should leave U.S.

“Should California become a free, sovereign, and independent country?”

The question could appear on a statewide ballot in 2018 if a group of secessionists has its way.

Yes California has been pushing for the state to break away from the United States and become its own country for several years.

Marcus Evans, the vice president of Yes California, filed a proposed ballot measure with the Attorney General’s Office on Monday that would appear on the November 2018 gubernatorial ballot.

“We always thought that if we just connected with the people who thought about this, but didn’t tell their friends and family because they would be seen as kooky and weird, that the quiet population would become vocal,” Evans said. “If you don’t want to support our suggestion, that’s fine. Let’s just have the conversation and discuss the facts.”

Yes California’s plan to secede is a long shot.

The measure aimed at the 2018 ballot attempts to strike language from the California Constitution that says the state is “an inseparable part of the United States of America, and the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land.” It also asks voters if they want to secede from the country.

If voters approve the measure, it would establish a special election in March 2019 to ask voters again if they want California to become an independent country, Yes California wrote in a ballot measure filing.

More than half of the registered voters in the state must participate in the special election and at least 55 percent must vote “yes” for the proposal to move forward, according to information submitted by the group. If voters approve the measure, “the governor shall carry and shepherd an application for the newly independent Republic of California to join the United Nations,” they say.

Louis J. Marinelli, president of Yes California, said the group plans to go through the United Nations to seek independence because they don’t believe Congress would sign off on a California exit plan.

“We’re not ashamed about going around Washington to achieve it,” Marinelli said. “Congress can’t tie its shoes. We can wait our whole life while Congress tries to grapple with this, and they won’t do anything.”

But one expert says not so fast.

Daniel Farber is a law professor at U.C. Berkeley and has written about secessionist movements throughout America’s history.

Yes California’s plan to appeal to the United Nations wouldn’t hold up in court, he said. Other countries might hesitate to embrace California as an independent nation anyway, particularly if issues of currency and military were not negotiated with the remainder of the country first. Other nations likely wouldn’t want to “risk the blowback of being on the losing side,” he said.

The only legal avenue for California to secede requires the state to win approval by two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states in the country, he said. Farber pointed to a Supreme Court decision, Texas vs. White, in 1869 that said Texas “entered into an indissoluble relation” when it became part of the United States. The case related to bonds sold by Texas during the Civil War.

“I don’t think it gets to the point where we have to worry about those details and how to make it work,” Farber said. “Many of us have had that thought from time to time, but in the end it’s not really a feasible option as far as I can see.”

Evans said the group filed the ballot proposal in response to an uptick in support in a deep-blue state following the election of Donald Trump.

About 11,000 people liked the Facebook page for Yes California Independence Campaign on election night. The group was nearly to 28,000 likes as of Monday. Supporters have even dubbed the movement “Calexit,” playing off “Brexit,” Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union in June.

Now the group needs to gather more than half a million signatures from registered California voters for the proposal to qualify for the ballot.

Yes California’s main argument is that California and the U.S. have conflicting values, and the state pays more than its fair share in federal taxes to subsidize other states. Meanwhile, he said, the state’s infrastructure is crumbling, schools are failing and millions of people live in poverty. Evans believes California, which would have the world’s sixth-largest economy if it were a standalone country, would be better off as an independent nation.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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