Tim Draper began submitting signatures Tuesday for his ballot measure to split California into six states, likely destining the initiative, once widely laughed off, for the November 2016 ballot.
Draper, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, said his campaign will deliver 1.3 million signatures to elections offices around the state this week. Slightly more than 800,000 valid voter signatures are needed to qualify for the ballot.
Even if its ultimate chances are dim – redrawing state lines would require an act of Congress – the idea stands to remain in public view for at least another two years. The measure would also have some practical implications short of creating new states. If passed, the measure would create a layer of government within each region and would give charter counties more autonomy on tax and development issues.
“Nobody took it seriously,” Steve Maviglio, a political consultant working against the initiative, said of initial reaction to Draper’s initiative.
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Now, he said, “you’ve got to.”
In a news conference outside a Sacramento County elections office, Draper criticized California for its relatively high poverty rate, low educational attainment and for infrastructure shortcomings and a business climate that he said is failing. His proposal would split California into six states: Jefferson, North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California and South California. In a tie decorated with six Californias, Draper said governments in six smaller states would be more responsive to residents who could easily leave one California for another.
“California, this is your opportunity to get a better government,” he said, “or a government that’s closer to you and more responsive.”
Draper has self-funded his campaign, pouring $4.9 million into the effort so far. Asked if he would fund the campaign himself going forward, Draper said, “Gosh, I hope not.” But outside the elections office, when he was asked who would pay the salaries of campaign consultants, Draper said he would “continue to support the campaign.”
“I know, look – this is a hard thing for everybody to sort of stomach. They’re saying, ‘Oh, gosh, why change this state?’ ” Draper said. “It takes time for people to sort of understand why it is that we need six states.”
Dividing the state geographically would result in the creation of some wealthy states, such as Silicon Valley, and some poor ones farther north and in the Central Valley. It could also complicate water and higher education issues, among other concerns, critics say.
“I think everybody’s got to start taking this seriously right now,” Maviglio said. “I mean, a lot of people have been laughing it off.”
Maviglio said the downside of the initiative is that “people are going to start highlighting the problems again instead of some of the positive solutions” he said politicians are putting forward to improve the existing state.
Maviglio was at Draper’s event Tuesday when Draper, introducing himself to reporters, happened across him in the crowd.
“Steve Maviglio, your nemesis,” Maviglio said when Draper extended his hand. “How are you?”