A billionaire venture capitalist’s bid to split California into three separate states has earned a spot on the ballot in November’s mid-term elections.
If Tim Draper’s Cal-3 initiative gets a majority vote, it would trigger a long process to split California into northern, southern and central states.
Mr Draper had campaigned unsuccessfully for six years, initially with a plan to divide the state into six new regions.
It is the first time in 150 years that this choice is on the state’s ballot.
Should the proposal become a reality, it would be the first division of a state since West Virginia split off from Virginia in 1863.
According to a memo filed on Tuesday by California’s Secretary of State, Mr Draper collected more than 402,468 signatures across the state’s counties for the proposal.
Cal-3 aims to break California into three new states: Northern California, Southern California and California.
The new California state would centre around Los Angeles up to Monterey County.
Northern California would include the Bay Area and Sacramento.
Southern California would stretch from San Diego to Fresno.
“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Mr Draper told the Los Angeles Times last summer, after submitting the proposal.
“States will be more accountable to us and can co-operate and compete for citizens.”
Is this a new idea?
The notion of splitting California up has been around as long as the state itself.
There have been over 200 attempts to divvy up the state by lawmakers, counties and well-off individuals like Mr Draper since California was founded in 1850.
In 1859, California sent a proposal to split the North from the South to US Congress, but the Civil War left lawmakers too preoccupied to vote on it.
Since then, initiatives to section the state into thirds or in half have floated around without much momentum.
In 2012 and 2014, Mr Draper proposed splitting California into six states – an initiative that failed to make it onto the ballot both times.
But he revived his idea as Cal-3 in September 2017.
A spokeswoman for Cal-3, Peggy Grande, told the Washington Post that California is “not a one-size-fits-all state”.
Ms Grande said Cal-3 would make it easier for state lawmakers to focus on problems in smaller regions.
“None of those problems disappear, but what does happen is the solutions become more representative of the people they affect,” she told the newspaper.
What would change on a national level?
California has 55 votes in the electoral college, and these have historically gone to Democratic candidates.
That could change if Cal-3 is approved, which could leave Democratic lawmakers uneasy about allowing the change.
Based on election data from the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, Southern California could become a swing state if the change is approved.
Cal-3 would also add four senators to US Congress.
How likely is the proposal to pass?
The US constitution allows for the formation of new states, but it does not make it an easy process.
Under Article IV, no new state can enter the union “without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned, as well as of the Congress”.
That means that if Cal-3 succeeds with voters, California’s legislature would also have to approve the move. Then, it would make its way to Washington, DC for federal approval.
For now, the move is still a long shot, especially given its history. But on 6 November, Californians will have a chance to weigh in on the matter.