Grassroots organisers have received the green light to start campaigning for California to secede from the United States.
Spurred by widespread discontent towards Donald Trump’s presidency, the Yes California group has begun collecting signatures to pave the way for the western US state to effectively become its own independent country.
On Thursday 26th Jan., California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla cleared a potential ballot measure which would amend the state’s constitution.
The measure would legally remove the state as an “inseparable part of the United States of America” and would withdraw California from the authority of the US Constitution.
Yes California needs to collect 585,407 valid signatures from registered voters by 25th July. If they succeed, the vote to amend the state’s constitution will be included on a 2018 ballot, which, if approved, would open up Californians to vote on full independence from the United States by 2019.
If at least 50 percent of registered voters participate in the 2019 vote, and if at least 55 percent vote in favour of secession, Californians will consider the ballot their declaration of independence from the US federal government.
“As the sixth largest economy in the world, California is more economically powerful than France and has a population larger than Poland,” says the group on its website. “Point by point, California compares and competes with countries, not just the 49 other states [of the United States].”
The initiative is being spearheaded by Louis J. Marinelli and Marcus Ruiz Evans who have been campaigning for secession for the greater part of two years.
Marinelli in 2015 failed to gain traction on a separate ballot measure which would have elevated the status of California into a “sovereign” state equal to that of the United States – like Scotland to the United Kingdom.
Yes California argues Californians are culturally different from the rest of the United States and unfairly suffer from national media attention accusing the state of being out of touch with the rest of the country.
The group also decries what it sees as California paying more in federal taxes to the United States than what it receives in federal funding – arguments that resemble those offered by other independence movements that include the UK Independence Party and proponents of Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
Using the hashtag #Calexit, the group claims it has 8,000 registered volunteers and 19,000 signatures to its online petition. Its Facebook page has more than 33,600 likes and followers.
The movement also has an “embassy” – in Russia – to serve as a cultural centre to promote trade and tourism. Marinelli has lived on and off in Russia and has a Russian born wife.
Presentation to the press at the opening of the Embassy of the Independent Republic of California— #Calexit Leader (@LouisJMarinelli) December 18, 2016
CAEmbRu</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/YesCalifornia">YesCalifornia #Calexit pic.twitter.com/MsF56cPjvf
In January 2017, a Reuters study found that one in every three Californians polled supports the peaceful withdrawal of the state from the United States.
“There is such hostility towards Trump that many citizens believe it would be smarter to leave than fight,” Democratic political consultant Steve Maviglio told Reuters.
According to Reuters, Yes California’s email list after the US presidential election grew from fewer than 2,500 to more than 115,000.
“We’re doing it now because of all of the overwhelming attention,” Evans told the Los Angeles Times. “This is real. We treat it seriously.”
Yes California is not the only initiative that has tried to reshape California in recent years. In 2014, a proposal to split the state into six separate states failed to reach the required votes for a 2016 ballot. The move was promoted by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper.
Nor is California the only state in the United States that is currently considering, or has considered, secession. The southern US state of Texas along the country’s border with Mexico, has also had whispers of “Texit” since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
Texas Republicans, in May 2016, narrowly avoided adding in their party platform language sympathetic to Texas secessionists.
Both Texas and California were once independent countries before joining the United States in the 19th century.
The Republic of California lasted only 26 days in 1846 when US settlers revolted against the Mexican government. The rebellion would quickly be absorbed into the Mexican-American War.
The Republic of Texas was an independent country from 1836 until 1846 and during the US Civil War, attempted and failed to break away from the US federal government.
The United States constitution provides no legal framework to allow states within the country to break away.
To peacefully secede California would have to amend the US constitution and have the amendment be approved by either two-thirds of congress or two thirds of all 50 states.
Throughout the country’s 240-year history the US constitution has been amended only 17 times.