Why Might California Split Into Three States?

The three new states of California as proposed by the Cal 3 initiative.
The three new states of California as proposed by the Cal 3 initiative.

California is a US state located in the southern-western part of the country, along the Pacific Coast. With a population of more than 38 million, California is the largest state in the US, and has a population greater than 21 of the least populous states combined. California is the third-largest state in the country in terms of area and borders the states of Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, the Pacific Ocean, and also shares an international boundary with Baja California, Mexico. The state is geographically divided into two: North and South California. Known as the Golden State, California has the country's largest economy. California was admitted to the Union in 1850 and has since existed as a single entity. However, an initiative dubbed Cal 3 proposes splitting California into three new states.

California Split

California Split or Cal 3 is a ballot initiative that aims to split California into three states. Launched by Silicon Valley's Tim Draper in August 2017, the aim of the initiative is to hold a vote on November 6, 2018, to decide whether or not the state should be split. If a majority of the voters agree to the split, California will not automatically be split, but the process of creating three new states will begin. The split will only occur if Congress consents to admit other states into the Union. Therefore, Cal 3 only establishes the means within the state government for the proposed split.

Cal 3 was introduced in August 2017 and approved in October 2017 by California's Secretary of State. Draper was required to submit the signatures of at least 365,880 registered California voters by April 23, 2018. 12 days before the deadline, he had collected 600,000 signatures. On June 13, 2018, it was announced that the signatures were valid and sufficient. If the process is successful, then California will be split into Northern California, Southern California, and California. However, in July 2018, the Supreme Court of California decided to pull the Cal 3 initiative from the ballot pending further review.

History of the Split

Since 1849, even before California was admitted to the Union, there have been over 200 efforts to have California split or redefined. However, every attempt has failed. In 1859, state lawmakers sent the first breakup plan to Congress, but the plan was quashed by the onset of the Civil War. In 1941, some residents of Northern California counties joined with Southern Oregonians in an attempt to form a new state that would be named “Jefferson.” However, the succession fever subsided following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

There was also a failed legislative effort to create a 51st state in 1965, by creating a dividing line at Tehachapi Mountain. The idea was revisited in 1978, but was again dismissed. In the early 1990s, there was a plan for an advisory vote to gauge whether residents of California would be interested in splitting the state into three. The most recent attempt before 2017 was the 2014 campaign by Tim Draper, who proposed that the state is split into six other states including Silicon Valley and West California. However, Draper failed to gather enough signatures to take his proposal to ballot.


More in Politics