An initiative to split California into three separate states has made its way on to the November ballot, but some political experts believe the chances of California actually separating is a long shot.
With this initiative, the state’s 58 counties would be divided among three states which would include California, Northern California and Southern California.
California would include Los Angeles, Monterey, San Benita, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, while Northern California would include counties stretching from the Bay Area and north.
Southern California would be made up of the remaining counties in the south.
“It’s never going to happen. It’s one of those ideas that keeps coming back,” said Keith Smith, a political science professor at the University of the Pacific. “It’s a bit of a pipe dream is what it is.”
Venture capitalist and cryptocurrency investor Tim Draper is behind this initiative and has been working to split the state since 2013.
Initially, Draper tried to push an initiative to split California into six states in 2016, but that failed to collect enough signatures. Now he is shooting for three states, and has managed to secure the signatures necessary for the initiative to qualify for the ballot.
Like Smith, McGeorge School of Law Professor Mary Beth Moylan, an expert in elections and the initiative process, said she doesn’t think the initiative will ever go into effect.
“It’s not something people have the power to do throughout the initiative process,” she said. “This ballot measure will likely be challenged in the courts probably before the election. If not successfully challenged before the election, I think after the election there would be a challenge saying that the people do not have the power to go about changing the boundary lines of California through the initiative process.”
According to Moylan, the California Constitution gives the people of California the power to make laws, and splitting the state is not making a law.
“It would be altering the boundaries of the state and making new political powers and three different jurisdictions. That’s not passing a law,” Moylan said. “I don’t think what the ballot proponent is doing actually fits within the California Constitution.”
Moylan said altering the boundary of the state would be a major constitutional and governmental revision, and the people of California don’t have the power to make such a decision.
“The California Constitution Article 18 says that in order for their to be a revision of the California Constitution, the Legislature either has to set up a constitutional convention or the Legislature has to propose changes to the people. However, an individual proponent is proposing this change,” Moylan said.
Moylan also noted that in the U.S. Constitution separating the states can only happen with the consent of the Legislature of the state and the consent of Congress.
“The people of California can’t just say ‘we want to turn our state into three states.’ It has to go through Congress and the Legislature and not just a voter initiated ballot measure,” she said.
Smith share similar views.
“How would you accomplish splitting the state up? It’s just a ‘hey, lets do it’ initiative. It’s too big and too complex to do it this way,” Smith said.
Smith said if the state is split it’s likely the Republican Party would lose the advantage that it has in the U.S. Senate. Due to how the states would be drawn, he said, there would probably be six Democrats elected to the Senate.
“There is no way Republicans would let that go through nationally,” Smith said.
If the initiative did pass, two of the states would more than likely be Democratic while the southern state is uncertain based on registration data, said Joel Blank, a political science professor at San Joaquin Delta College.
Blank said that uncertainty in Southern California could be why Democrats in Congress were opposed to the idea of splitting the state. He also pointed out that the president has to sign off on the initiative as well.
However, Blank doesn’t event think the initiative will be approved by voters in November.
With the majority of the state being Democratic and many Democrats having already voiced opposition to the initiative, Blank said it will be a hurdle to get the voters to pass the initiative.