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March 26, 2014 11:27 AM “6 Californias” Initiative Could Make 2014 Ballot

By Ed Kilgore

California has a tradition of rich eccentrics managing to get strange ballot initiatives certified. According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci, one of the strangest ever, an initiative to split California into six separate states, could be on the November 2014 ballot. But that’s according to its proponent, venture capitalist Tim Draper, who says he’s “close” to collecting the 800,000 signatures necessary to gain a ballot line. Draper allows as how his own internal polling shows the “Six Californias” idea isn’t exactly popular in his own Silicon Valley area:

“You’d think that Silicon Valley would benefit” greatest from the plan, said Draper, whose plan calls for the foundation of a state of Silicon Valley, which economists suggest would likely be the richest state in the nation. But “Silicon Valley is the least likely to vote for this,” Draper acknowledged Tuesday. “It’s bizarre.”

Not as bizarre as the fact that the two areas most likely to favor the idea are the state’s two poorest regions, Far Northern California (the proposed State of Jefferson, playing off pre-existing secession schemes) and the Central Valley (which would become the poorest state in the nation, finally enabling Mississippi to escape that distinction). “Jefferson’s” mix of rural conservatives and leave-us-alone pot farmers explains that area’s centrifugal tendencies, and many Central Valley business types are dreaming of a fracking-based oil boom if only the hippies of the coast can be taken out of the political equation.

In the very unlikely event (as unlikely, say, as San Franciso enacting a same-sex marriage ban) that the “6 Californias” idea is approved by voters and then by the state legislature, it would of course have to be approved by Congress, with all the subsequent arguments over Senate seats and reconfiguration of flags. But believe me, if it makes the ballot, this Proposition Zero will get more media attention going into November than all the statewide elections combined.

Here for your entertainment is The Economist’s brief explanatory video on the scheme.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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