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Should California Be Split Into Six States? Voters Will Get To Decide

The billionaire behind the initiative says splitting up California will provide a much-needed "refresh" for the region. But the plan faces both skepticism and opposition.

Posted on July 15, 2014, at 10:27 p.m. ET

AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

A plan to split California into six separate states is likely headed to the ballot in 2016.

Organizers of Six Californias have gathered 1.3 million signatures — far more than the minimum 808,000 they needed — to bring their cause to the voters, spokesman Roger Salazar told BuzzFeed. The signatures were turned in to county offices across the state Tuesday. Salazar said officials now have to verify the signatures, after which the initiative will go on the ballot for the next statewide election. The deadline for 2014 has already passed, so the plan to split up California will likely reach votes in November 2016, Salazar said.

The plan is the brainchild of billionaire Timothy Draper, who founded a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm.

Reuters / Brendan McDermid

Draper spoke to BuzzFeed Tuesday and said splitting up California will provide a much-needed "refresh" for a region that has become mired in outdated technology, poor schools, an overburdened justice system, and an array of other problems. "It seems to be ungovernable right now," he said, adding that even good leaders over the past 40 years have been unable to stop California's steady decline.

Draper and Salazar both said that splitting up the state would create governments that were more responsive to local needs. They also believe a group of smaller states would bolster innovation and make the entire region — including parts that are currently struggling economically — more competitive.

Organizers have drawn up what six separate Californias might look like. / Six Californias

On the Six Californias website, the proposed states have been named: Jefferson in the north (blue); North California in the center (purple); Silicon Valley in the Bay Area (yellow); West California in the Los Angeles area (green); Central California in the center (red); and South California at the southern tip (orange). Counties would theoretically be able to vote to join a different state for a year after the election. Salazar also said the campaign is working on project called "Create Your State" that will encourage Californians to weigh in on the process.

Organizers also believe that if the initiative eventually succeeded, the resulting states would be able to "take the best of the current system and improve on the parts that don’t work well."

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The plan to split California faces both skepticism and outright opposition on a number of fronts.

A pair of political operatives have formed a group called OneCalifornia to oppose the split, according to Reuters. Steven Maviglio, a Democratic political strategist with OneCalifornia, called the attempt to split the state "a colossal and divisive waste of time, energy, and money that will hurt the California brand."

A February poll also found that 59% of Californians oppose the proposed split.

Other attempts to split California — there have been hundreds — have come and gone over the years. The proposals have ranged from calls for three Californias to various secession attempts by counties and regions.

Flickr: mrecho

Riverside, Calif., lies at the eastern edge of the Los Angeles area. In 2011, county officials in Riverside proposed seceding from the rest of the state.

Even if Californians vote in favor of splitting their state, the plan would still need approval from Congress before it became a reality.

Selling the idea in Washington, D.C., could be tough. It would break up the way the state's current block of electoral college votes are distributed, and it means the region would suddenly have 12 senators instead of two. UC Davis Law School professor Vikram Amar has pointed out that adding senators would dilute the influence of existing lawmakers, which low-population states might be reluctant to agree to.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.