Ballot access laws are difficult, often byzantine and occasionally undemocratic. Sometimes, however, they work. This appears to be the case in California where the Six Californias initiative, a proposal to break the Golden State into six smaller states, now seems unlikely to get on the 2016 statewide ballot. Although organizers have submitted some 1.1 million signatures, about 200,000 more than what is needed, many of these signatures were invalid. Only 559,483 of the signatures are valid with almost all counties recording. Petitions from Los Angeles County have not yet been submitted, but it is unlikely that fully 200,000 valid signatures will be submitted from that county as well as from three very small counties that have also not yet turned in petitions.
If the Six Californias initiative does not get on the ballot it will save Californians an unnecessary, expensive and tedious debate about a policy that is both poorly thought out and, even if passed, extremely unlikely to be turned into law. In the U.S., states don’t break apart simply by passing initiatives. It requires constitutional changes that are very difficult to implement.
With any luck, the Six Californias initiative will fade away and within a few years only be a memory for people who follow California politics with some intensity. Nonetheless, it is worth taking a few moments to reflect upon this bizarre notion. The Six Calfornias idea is a dazzling combination of unworkable, arrogant and and expensive, but it also reflects a bit of the gestalt of California, or at least part of California, and is at heart little more than a conservative plan to dilute California’s electoral college vote for the Democrats masquerading as a new techie Libertarian solution.
The idea is the brainchild of, Tim Draper, a wealthy venture capitalist and is steeped in the culture of the new tech wealth. The proposal, among other things, seeks to have Silicon Valley become its own state, reflecting a uniquely contemporary view of California. The tech theme is further evident in the very first line of the about section of the initiative’s website that calls for a “refresh” for the Golden State. As a whole, the Six Californias proposal feels like the political equivalent of the new app wealthy San Franciscans can use to organize their various household services.
It is now reasonably clear that Californians will not be using that app anytime soon and equally clear that the Six Californias proposal was always more of a fantasy, or at best a way to start a discussion, but not a very important one, than it was real policy proposal.
Lincoln Mitchell is the national political correspondent for the Observer. Follow him on Twitter @LincolnMitchell