The pipe-dream of a “Calexit”—the breaking away of the state of California from the rest of the United States—has come at least one step closer to reality with the news that the Yes California Independence movement has the approval of the California Secretary of State to begin gathering signatures to put the matter before voters in November 2018.
According to an announcement on the California Secretary of State’s official website, the proposed “California Nationhood. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute” has been cleared to “begin collecting petition signatures.”
If the campaign collects 585,407 valid signatures, then a vote on whether to hold a secession referendum will be put on the ballot. Californians would be able to declare independence from the United States “if 50 percent of registered voters participate and 55 percent of those voting approve.”
The “California Nationhood. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute” seeks to repeal the provision in the State of California Constitution which states that “California is an inseparable part of the United States and that the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land,” the statement continues.
The move “places [the] question of whether California should become a separate country on a future ballot,” and “treats result of such future vote as declaration of independence from the United States if 50 percent of registered voters participate and 55 percent of those voting approve.”
It also requires the Governor to request that California seek admission to the United Nations if voters approve the independence move.
The statement goes on to say that the “fiscal impact of this measure is dependent on various factors, including a vote by the people on this measure,” because it might face “legal challenges, and implementation issues.”
The proponent of the measure, Marcus Evans, must collect the signatures of 585,407 registered voters (8 percent of the total votes cast for Governor in the November 2014 general election) in order to qualify it for the ballot.
He has exactly 180 days to circulate petitions for the measure, meaning the signatures must be submitted to county elections officials by July 25, 2017. If they are successful in gathering the required number of signatures, then the initiative has to be placed on the 2018 California state ballot.
If that vote passes, then an independence plebiscite will be held in March 2019 on the question of California’s independence.
According to their “Blue Book” guide to the case for Californian independence, the major reasons why they seek to break away from the United States are all essentially major political differences with the rest of the country.
They claim that as the sixth largest economy in the world, “California is more economically powerful than France and has a population larger than Poland. Point by point, California compares and competes with countries, not just the 49 other states.”
Furthermore, they say, “In our view, the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values, and our continued statehood means California will continue subsidizing the other states to our own detriment, and to the detriment of our children.”
In this regard, the campaign says that “California’s electoral votes haven’t affected a presidential election since 1876.
“On top of that, presidential election results are often known before our votes are even counted. So, why should we keep subjecting ourselves to presidents we play no role in electing, to 382 representatives and 98 senators we can’t vote for, and all the government officials and federal judges appointed by those very same people we don’t elect.”
This fact played out heavily in the most recent U.S. Presidential election, when California gave Hillary Clinton 61.5 percent of the vote (8,753,788 votes) to Donald Trump’s 33.2 percent (4,483,810 votes). This means that the state of California alone provided all the votes which allowed Clinton to win the popular vote count.
Another reason listed for independence in the Yes! California’s Blue Book is immigration. They state:
“California is the most diverse state in the United States and that is something we are proud of. This diversity is a central part of our culture and an indispensable part of our economy.
“As a U.S. state, our immigration system was largely designed by the 49 other states thirty years ago. This immigration system has since neglected the needs of the California economy and has hurt too many California families. Independence means California will be able to decide what immigration policies make sense for our diverse and unique population, culture, and economy, and that we’ll be able to build an immigration system that is consistent with our values.”
While the campaign is still relatively small—as of January 30, it claimed to only have just over 19,000 signatures, over 31,000 likes on Facebook, and 20,000 followers n Twitter, the outcome of the Presidential election indicates that their potential is far higher.
The fact that the state is majority nonwhite will also play a factor in determining the eventual outcome of the initiative, particularly as opposition to President Trump’s immigration control policies start to kick in.