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Court Blocks Measure Asking Voters To Split California In 3

Cal 3's projected map of the three states is shown, 2018.
Cal 3
Cal 3's projected map of the three states is shown, 2018.
Court Blocks Measure Asking Voters To Split California In 3
Court Blocks Measure Splitting California Into 3 GUEST: Thad Kousser, department chair & professor of political science, UC San Diego

An initiative to split California into three separate states will not appear on the November ballot. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that it would be more harmful to let the measure stay on the ballot than to delay it until its constitutionality was determined. This is just the latest effort to split up our megastate for any number of different reasons. It remains what most consider a wacky idea but it's not beyond the realm of possibility. Joining me is that Kowsar department chair and professor of political science at UC San Diego and Ed welcome. Hey Maureen. Thanks for having this addition initiative would have asked voters to split the state into northern California southern California and California. What was the reason given by supporters of the plan. Yes Tim Draper who's a Silicon Valley billionaire behind this. His argument was that California is simply too big to govern effectively and too different right. That that there are just some parts of California maybe the redder areas in central California in Orange County that really weren't getting the government that they wanted from Sacramento especially as that government got got bluer more liberal and the different areas of the state needed a fully different governing system to get the policies and the politics that they wanted. Now who challenged the initiative in court. What were their arguments. It was the group the challenge that was called the planning Conservation League which is an environmental group probably worried about environmental protections and some of these red areas the state that that have many of our resources and and their argument was as far as it is about to get real nerdy real quick. But hang with me for a second. There are two ways to change the constitution. One is the amendment process which is what this initiative was trying to do. All you do is you pass an initiative you get signatures and then you do it with 50 percent plus one of the vote and so on knife's edge you can really change things. The second is the revision process the much more deliberative long standing process where you go through either a constitutional convention or you have a constitutional revision commission that meets They forward their ideas to the legislature the legislature passes by supermajority and then voters vote. And the idea the challenge said that you know this was such a big change to the way California's governed that it's got to go through the revision process the slow deliberative process because that's what the courts have said you have to do any time you want to make a fundamental change to the governing plan of California and the courts this Supreme Court unanimously bought that argument and said Yeah this is a big deal. We've got to put the brakes on it or at least have another hearing over the next few years to decide whether it can withstand the scrutiny. Now the idea of splitting up the state comes up again and again. Why do you think that is because California is so big and so different. And so whether the idea is dividing it in north south which has to see those proposals in the 80s or EastWest that was what came out came up about 10 years ago as we started to see this divide created between the Central Valley and the coastal areas. You know Californians live very different lives if we're in Modesto Moran or or or Ansun ETUs and. And so the idea is that you'd want separate government separate set of policies for each of those areas. So it's tempting especially for groups that feel like they're on the outside of California politics. Well there's a new book out that attempts to tell Democrats how to quote fight dirty and it advocates splitting California up into seven states to produce 12 more senators. Would such a thing even be possible. No not at all. But you know I think the threshold question is Do Californians like being big and I think really a lot of us. We enjoy it we take great pride in being the biggest state though one of the biggest economies in the world and all that comes from being great. You know Texans are not going to split up their state they like you know we have that same kind of pride in California. But they are also being big news that you can share in important ways. Right. That the that the wealth generated in Hollywood in Silicon Valley can be redistributed by state tax system into schools in Fresno and Modesto and downtown San Diego. That's what happens under a big big state and that's something that I think would be lost. The other thing is Republicans in the rest of the country wouldn't let us elect 12 more senators because both sides know how to fight dirty in politics. Now this is an obviously flawed initiative at least to the the Supreme Court justices. They took one look at it and said no this is too big to let on the ballot. What is it in our system that allows these flawed initiatives to get on the ballot so the courts generally wait until voters have decided before ruling on the constitutionality of initiatives. And the one reason is that the best way to get everyone to agree that someone is a bad idea is to have voters reject it and voters reject that 70 percent of proposition's so that saves the court work but most importantly allows this direct democracy process to kill these ideas dead rather than having the courts rule them out. Courts rarely clear. In rare occasions take things off the ballot before they're voted on. But all the time they take things on the ballot afterwards. So one estimate by Ken Miller's political scientist says about 60 percent of California's initiatives over three decades were overruled either in part or in whole after they passed. What are some of those examples. Do you have any. Yes so well let's just think back to prop 8 the ban on same sex marriage that survived a state court challenge but then was overthrown by the federal courts. Proposition 187 same thing that would have stopped people here without documentation of illegal immigrants from receiving a lot of social services courts threw that out saying no immigration is a federal program so courts do this too. There have been a lot of campaign finance measures thrown out courts do this quite often in California because there aren't checks on the legality of initiative before it goes onto the ballot. What about the California secretary of state or the county registrars of voters. Do they have any authority to remove measures that they think might not be up to snuff. Did they have any any jurisdiction to remove them from the ballot. No it's their job to decide whether an initiative went through the right process got the signatures or those signatures ballot valid. They do count those up and they do take things off like the six States initiative that Tim Draper tried beforehand didn't have enough valid signatures. So the counties and the secretary of state working together kept it out about for that very valid reason. But the courts these challenges are based on saying that these initiatives violate California Constitution or the federal courts will step in if it violates the federal constitution and it's properly the role of courts to do that. And so that's not something that that our election officials do. Is the state Supreme Court going to look at this particular ballot measure for the three states are they going to rule about it again. They said we can take a harder look. We can hear these arguments there are sort of multiple grounds on which this is sort of a challenge. And if it survived all those challenges it could make it to the ballot in 2020. And they basically said yeah the cost of delay aren't that great. The costs of passing something that was blatantly unconstitutional and then having to deal with it afterwards that would be a real harm. So let's take our time let's look at it. But I wouldn't expect to see this on a ballot anytime soon in California. I've been speaking with that Kowsar department chair and professor of political science at UC San Diego. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

The California Supreme Court has blocked a measure that would divide the state in three from appearing on the November ballot.

The justices on Wednesday ordered the secretary of state not to put the initiative before voters, saying significant questions have been raised about its validity.

RELATED: Bold California Initiative To Split State In 3 Faces Hurdles


The court will now consider the merits of a challenge brought by the Planning and Conservation League. The environmental group argues that dividing the nation's most populous state in three would drastically change California's government structure beyond what can be accomplished through a ballot initiative.

RELATED: California? Or Cali-Three-Nia? Proposal To Split State Will Be On Ballot In November

Venture capitalist Tim Draper is funding the measure and has said it would be inappropriate for the court to block it from the ballot.

The initiative could appear in the future if the court ultimately rules in its favor.