‘Three Californias’ Qualifies for November Ballot

Like a horror movie villain rising from the grave, the idea of divvying up California is the fantasy that just won’t quit.

The latest iteration is the push to create three Californias, or the “Cal 3” campaign, led by venture capitalist Tim Draper. The initiative has now qualified for the November ballot after garnering more than 402,468 valid signatures. Secretary of State Alex Padilla is expected to certify the signatures on June 28.

If ultimately successful -- a big, giant, honking if -- it would mark the first division of a U.S. state since West Virginia’s creation in 1863. The vote would only be the first step in a long and arduous process involving both the state and federal government.

No matter how outlandish the idea may be, it’s hard not to be sympathetic to some of Draper’s arguments. He says “vast parts of California are poorly served by a representative government dominated by a large number of elected representatives from a small part of our state, both geographically and economically.”

“The closer you get to government, the better it’s going to be. When you have all the power delegated to someone very distant, it creates a problem.”

Draper was also behind the (failed) effort to split California up into six states.

So how would his latest idea work? The Los Angeles Times explains:

Draper’s plan calls for three new entities — Northern California, California and Southern California — which would roughly divide the population of the existing state into thirds.

Northern California would consist of 40 counties stretching from Oregon south to Santa Cruz County, then east to Merced and Mariposa counties. Southern California would begin with Madera County in the Central Valley and then wind its way along the existing state’s eastern and southern spine, comprising 12 counties and ultimately curving up the Pacific coast to grab San Diego and Orange counties.

Under the longshot proposal, Los Angeles County would anchor the six counties that retained the name California, a state that would extend northward along the coast to Monterey County. Draper’s campaign website argues the three states would have reasonably similar household incomes and enough industries to produce their own viable economies.

As it was with the six-state idea, economic viability and water rights would be major sticking points in Draper’s plan.