Cal 3, the ballot initiative to split the State of California into three new states, was approved for the November general election yesterday following a successful signature petition drive.
What is the Cal 3 initiative?
Splitting a state into three pieces might seem like an unusual political crusade, but the backers of Cal 3 have some strong reasons for thinking the measure could improve the lives of Californians.
A recent U.S. News & World Report and McKinsey’s “Leading States Index” ranked California an unacceptable 43rd among America’s 50 states for fiscal stability, 46th for opportunity, and an embarrassing 50th for quality of life.
The Cal 3 backers blame California’s failures on one particular problem: their state’s massive size.
As America’s largest state, California’s politics are certainly different from anywhere else in the country. For example, campaigns for Governor and other statewide offices in California require huge television advertising expenditures as it is virtually impossible to cover such a vast area with more direct, “retail” campaigning. This makes it harder for political outsiders without large donor bases to compete.
If the measure succeeds, backers hope to divide California into three states of 12-14 million residents each, provisionally named “Northern California,” “California,” and “Southern California.”
In a press release, Citizens for Cal 3 spokesperson Peggy Grande said, “The reality is…[California] is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future…This November, all Californians have the opportunity to send the message they are ready for solutions to our most pressing state issues in failing education, crumbling infrastructure, sky-high taxes and stagnation in state government.”
How exactly could it work?
According to the text of the ballot initiative, if passed into law the Governor of California would request the US Congress to give its blessing to the break-up. There is historical precedent for this: Tennessee was split from North Carolina, and both Kentucky and West Virginia were split off from Virginia at different times. According to the US Constitution, the procedure would be legal as long as the California State Legislature agrees, and Congress is willing to admit the new states.
The dream of the Cal 3 activists took an enormous step closer to becoming a reality yesterday when the 402,468 valid signatures it submitted last month, much more than the statutory requirement, resulted in approval for the measure to appear on the November ballot.
“This milestone is a testament to the energized spirit of Californians wanting to create a better future for themselves and their communities,” Grande said. “All Californians deserve more from their state, and with Cal 3, more regional responsiveness and more meaningful results will create a promising future for everyone.”
Getting on the ballot is a huge first step, but, as noted above, statewide campaigns in California are difficult and expensive because of (ironically in this instance) California’s massive geographic size and huge population. California’s voters will need plenty of opportunities to wrap their heads around such a radical proposal – Cal 3’s backers still have an enormous job ahead of them.