Urban Transformation

This Silicon Valley investor wants to split California into three states

An aerial view of San Francisco is seen in San Francisco, California, U.S., October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

This will be the 3rd vote since 2012 on breaking up the populous state. Image: REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Melia Robinson
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Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.

Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three separate states: Northern California, California (new), and Southern California.

Draper's proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on Tuesday to appear on the ballot in November's general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the amount required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign, called Cal 3, and financial backing from the early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.

If a majority of California voters that cast ballots agree to divide the state into three, the plan would need approval from both houses of the California Legislation. Then it would reach the US Congress.

The last time an existing state split up, it was the 1860s and a civil war broke out. West Virginia was formed by seceding from a Confederate state over differences around slavery.

Draper has reasons for wanting to slice and dice his home state.

With slightly more than 39 million people, California is the most populous state in the nation. Supporters of the initiative argue the state isn't fairly represented with senators in Washington. The proposal would give the people of California six senators.

According to the Cal 3 website, partitioning the state would also allow state legislatures to make better and more sensible decisions for their communities.

"The California state government isn't too big to fail, because it is already failing its citizens in so many crucial ways," Peggy Grande, a spokesperson for Citizens for Cal 3 campaign, said in a Tuesday statement. "The reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched, and overwrought state-government structure, it is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future." (You can read the full press release here.)

Even still, the proposal is as radical as it is unlikely to pass.

Critics of the initiative say having three Californias would actually diminish the power of Democrats. With its 55 electors in the Electoral College, California has long been a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Three smaller states would change that equation, which worries some Democrats.

Image: Skye Gould/Business Insider

Under the proposal, each state would have about one-third of the state population.

California (new): This would include six counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and San Benito counties.

Southern California: This would have 12 counties: San Diego, San Bernadino, Orange, Riverside, Mono, Madera, Inyo, Tulare, Fresno, Kings, Kern, and Imperial counties.

Northern California: This would include 40 counties including the San Francisco Bay Area and the remaining counties north of Sacramento, the current state capital.

This is the third time Draper has tried to get voters to weigh in on breaking up the most populous US state. He backed proposals in 2012 and 2014 to create six California states, but both initiatives fell short of gathering enough valid signatures.

In 2016, an effort called Calexit sought to separate California from the US. The secession movement fell off after its leader announced he was moving to Russia.

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