A group that is trying to organize a vote on whether California should secede from the US has received permission to begin gathering signatures to force an independence referendum that, if successful, would amount to the first serious attempt at secession by a US state since the Civil War.
According to the Sacramento Bee, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued an official ballot measure title and summary to the "California Autonomy From Federal Government" initiative, which can now start gathering signatures needed to include the referendum question - known informally as "Calexit" - on the ballot during the 2018 midterm elections.
The group’s proposal has been scaled back from an initially more aggressive version. The initiative wouldn't necessarily force California to exit the country, but could allow the state to become a “fully functioning sovereign and autonomous nation” within the US, according to the Los Angeles Times.
If successful, the vote would allow California Gov. Jerry Brown to “form a commission to recommend avenues for California to pursue its independence and delete part of the state constitution that says it is an inseparable part of the U.S. The measure would also instruct the governor and California congressional delegation to negotiate more autonomy for the state,” according to the Bee.
As the Bee notes, an earlier, more aggressive measure that called for a formal break with the US was cancelled less than three months after it received permission to start gathering signatures – presumably because the group had trouble finding voters willing to affix their names to the movement. The new, scaled down effort is the second since President Donald Trump’s upset victory in November to convince the state’s leadership to demand more autonomy from Washington.
Backers of the plan now have 180 days to collect the more than 585,000 valid signatures needed for the initiative to go on the 2018 ballot.
Apparently, liberal, Hillary Clinton-loving Californians were so triggered by Trump’s win that they immediately began fantasizing about breaking away from the US. According to an Ipsos/Reuters poll released back in January found that 1 in every 3 Californians (32%) said they would support a "peaceful withdrawal from the union” - a substantial increase from the 20% who favored such a withdrawal the last time a similar poll was conducted in 2014. Support for secession among Californians was also higher than the national average of 24%, the poll found.
Californians are particularly triggered by Trump's promises to enforce immigration laws and repeal Obamacare. One Democrat consultant who was interviewed by Reuters in its story reporting the poll’s findings said that "many citizens believe it would be smarter to leave than fight."
While California has a reputation as one of the most liberal states in the country, it does have its conservative pockets. In profile published last month, the New York Times spoke with residents of 13 Northern California counties that went for Trump during the election. Many decried what they called the “tyranny” of the state’s liberal hegemony, which has effectively marginalized their votes for statewide and federal officials, other than their local US representatives.
If California successfully secedes, expect those counties to stage their own effort to break away from the rest of the state.