Capitol Alert

Six Californias initiative fails to make 2016 ballot

A proposed ballot measure to carve California into six states failed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot Friday after election officials determined that backers did not collect enough valid signatures.

The outcome is a blow to billionaire Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who spent $5.2 million to put his “Six Californias” idea before voters. He had said the measure would bring government closer to the people and make it more responsive, but critics said the proposal hurt the state’s image and would be unworkable if approved.

The measure needed 807,615 valid voter signatures to qualify, and the Six Californias campaign turned in nearly 1.14 million in mid-July. But several weeks of random signature checks that ended Friday determined that only 752,685 signatures were valid – almost 15,000 signatures below the threshold needed to launch a full count of every signature.

In a statement, Draper said he is convinced that the campaign turned in enough valid voter signatures to qualify his measure. He said the campaign will review signatures deemed invalid in several counties, noting that the campaign’s signature-gathering firm had projected that many more signatures would be valid than did election officials.

“It is yet another example of the dysfunction of the current system and reinforces the need for six fresh, modern governments,” Draper said. “In the meantime, we will work with the secretary of state to verify all of the signatures gathered during the petition process.”

Six-state opponents called on Draper to “move forward from this failed proposal and join in focusing on the needs of our one Golden State.”

“Six Californias was a solution in search of a problem that didn’t address any of our state’s challenges,” said former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, the chairman of the One California group opposing the measure. “The implosion of this ballot measure spares us from a two-year campaign of bashing our great state, which continues to be the nation’s bastion of innovation, diversity and progress.”

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Draper’s initiative called for creating the states of Jefferson, North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California and South California. Yet even if approved by voters, the Golden State’s breakup would require Congress’ approval, which experts deemed highly unlikely.

The initiative, though, would have had more immediate impacts. It would have allowed a new layer of government comprising counties in the would-be states, even if federal lawmakers never went along with slicing up the country’s largest.

“California, this is your opportunity to get a better government,” Draper said when he turned in thousands of signatures July 15 at the Sacramento County Voter Registration and Elections Department.

Yet the measure drew more attention from the media and late-night comics than deep voter support. No one besides Draper contributed to the campaign, which in the spring paid $51,000 to Los Angeles-based Crowds on Demand, which can “organize any group, small or large, anywhere,” according to its website.

The campaign also paid almost $4.4 million to Carlsbad-based Arno Petition Consultants Inc., which oversaw signature gathering to qualify the measure. The campaign fell far short of qualifying for the ballot by a random sample “short count,” which would require a projected 888,377 valid signatures.

Moreover, the measure steadily looked in danger of failing to reach a projected 767,235 valid signatures. That is 95 percent of the total needed to qualify, and the bare minimum to trigger a full count. As of Thursday, the campaign was more than 242,000 signatures short of that threshold.

On Friday, Los Angeles County – which represented almost 312,000 of the nearly 315,000 signatures still outstanding – projected that only 191,606 signatures were valid, a validity rate of 61.4 percent.

The highest validity rate was in Ventura County, with 82.2 percent. The lowest was in Yuba County, which projected that only 51.1 percent of signatures were good, election officials said. Statewide, the rate was 66.15 percent.

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