A movement to divide California into three states edged closer to reality this week.
The proposal, pushed by a tech billionaire, earned enough signatures to go before voters on the Nov. 6 ballot. Here's how the proposal might play out.
How would the new boundaries be drawn?
The initiative divides all 58 counties in California into three separate states.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Northern California would include Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Siskiyou, Shasta, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Sacramento, San Joaquin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.
Southern California would include the counties of Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Tulare.
California would include Los Angeles, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Would it require approval by other government bodies?
A state cannot split without the approval of the U.S. Congress, and the president would have the power to approve or veto any vote taken by Congress. The California Legislature might also need to sign off, according to review of the measure by the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Virginia was the last state to split in 1863 to create Virginia and West Virginia. The government interpreted language in the U.S. Constitution to mean that both the state Legislature (in that instance in West Virginia) and Congress had to approve before a state is split into two or more states. The ballot initiative process did not exist in 1863, and it's unclear if voter approval would circumvent the need for the California Legislature to also sign off, in the opinion of the LAO.
The proponents of the initiative attempted to exempt legislative approval by including language in the measure that says the people of California "provide the legislative consent for the formation of three new states to Congress as required by the United States Constitution."
How would it work?
If voters approve the proposal, the governor would provide a copy of the election results to the U.S. Congress on Jan. 1, 2019. Congress would be given 12 months to sanction the split, according to language in the ballot initiative.
The California Legislature would "provide for the division and transformation of California" within 12 months after Congress signed off. If the Legislature failed to act in the given time frame, California's debts would be divided among the new states based on population. Any state assets that fall within a state's new boundary would be allotted to that state.
Counties would continue to fall under the purview of the existing California government until each new state established its own separate government and adopted a constitution.
Who supports it?
The initiative's main supporter is Tim Draper, a billionaire and venture capitalist. Draper, a 60-year-old California native and bitcoin investor, comes from a family of wealthy investors and founded the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. He first embarked on an unsuccessful quest to divide California into six smaller states in 2014 and hasn't given up on the idea.
Draper argues that California has been rendered ungovernable due to its population and diverse regional economies. Supporters say splitting the state up would create a more representative system of government.
How much money will he spend to pass it?
Peggy Grande, a spokeswoman for the "Cal 3" campaign, on Wednesday said she doesn't know "exactly what the dollar figure will look like." Draper gave $220,000 to an independent expenditure committee, "Citizens for Cal 3," to support the initiative in April. State filings show he paid consultants and law firms nearly $560,000 last year for work related to the proposal.
Draper spent more than $5 million on the effort to carve California into six states, which failed to land on the ballot in 2014.
Who opposes it?
Fabian Nuñez, the former Speaker of the California Assembly, is leading a campaign to oppose the measure. The independent expenditure committee ONECALIFORNIA has not reported any financial activity.
The opposition campaign does not intend to match the funds Draper spends to pass the initiative.
"There would be no need," said Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for the opposition. "I’m pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have called and emailed already and said they want to help."
The California Republican Party voted to oppose the measure at its convention in May. Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom brushed off the proposal at a California Democratic Party event on Wednesday.
"I am 100 percent certain we'll oppose it," said Eric Bauman, chair of the California Democratic Party.
Has this been attempted before?
Many times. The California Legislature agreed to split off areas south of the Tehachapi Mountains into a separate territory in 1859. Congress never took action on the proposal, according to the LAO.
Other attempts to divide California have been made over the years, including a long-running effort to combine parts of Northern California and Southern Oregon into the State of Jefferson.