California’s 168-year run as a single entity, hugging the continent’s edge for hundreds of miles and sprawling east across mountains and desert, could come to an end next year — as a controversial plan to split the Golden State into three new jurisdictions qualified Tuesday for the Nov. 6 ballot.
If a majority of voters who cast ballots agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan — far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels — would make history.
It would be the first division of an existing U.S. state since the creation of West Virginia in 1863.
“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who sponsored the ballot measure, said in an email to The Times last summer when he formally submitted the proposal. “States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens.”
In the initiative’s introductory passage, Draper argues that “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 proposal aims to invoke Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the provision guiding how an existing state can be divided into new states. 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.