Plan to Split California Six Ways Fails to Make Ballot

From the Six Californias campaign.
From the Six Californias campaign.

In what looks to be the end of an effort loved by the national media and hotly debated closer to home, state elections officials say the proposed initiative to split California into six separate states has failed to gather enough valid signatures for a place on the 2016 ballot.

The final tally of signatures checked in all 58 counties shows the initiative is 14,550 valid voter signatures short of the number needed to check every one of the more than 1.3 million signatures turned in by the campaign led by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper.

California election law stipulates that after a random sample of signatures, an initiative must have a projected validity rate between 95 percent and 110 percent of the total needed to actually qualify for the ballot. Fewer than 95 percent, and the initiative is deemed dead.

That's what happened to Six Californias on Friday afternoon. (PDF of the signature tally is here.)

Draper's measure to split California into six separate states was originally eyed for this fall's ballot. But the campaign struggled to gather signatures quickly enough, and backers then shifted their focus to the November 2016 ballot -- which gave them until midsummer. Draper spent $5.2 million of his own money to gather those signatures.

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And when news broke of the failed effort, he responded with defiance.

"Six Californias collected more than enough signatures," he said in an emailed statement, "and we are confident that a full check of the signatures would confirm that fact."

Draper says his team's own internal projections "predicted a much higher validity rate of signatures," and that they will now review some of the signatures deemed invalid in certain counties ... thus leaving open the door for a formal challenge to the rejection of the measure by Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

"It is unfortunate that the current, archaic, system has delayed this process," said Draper in his statement.

Opponents of the state-splitting measure reveled in the news of its demise, arguing that Draper and his supporters weren't really serious about fixing what's broken in California.

"Six Californias was a solution in search of a problem that didn't address any of our state's challenges," said former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, chair of the opposition campaign, in an emailed statement. "The implosion of this ballot measure spares us from a two-year campaign of bashing our great state."

Numerous legal experts doubted the measure, an amendment to the California state constitution, would have passed muster in the courts, to say nothing of Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have a role under federal law in any proposal to add states to the union.

Draper, a minor player in state politics before this effort and a brief member of the state Board of Education, seemed to revel in the national conversation his measure sparked -- even when he, and the idea, were being lampooned.

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"I'm tired of the whole idea of a melting pot in America," comedian Stephen Colbert told Draper in July. "I believe the metaphor you're going for is one of those Tupperware things, where you get to seal off every container."

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