The California Supreme Court has decided to block an initiative that would put to a vote an idea to split the state into three. The proposition will no longer appear on the ballot this November.
The plan was put into motion by billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, who funded the campaign for the measure and the collection of signatures. Before this most recent plan, Draper tried floating an initiative in 2014 that would have broken up the state into six parts.
Draper, whose company once owned 10% of Skype, and who was an early investor in the totally fraudulent start up Theranos (he still maintains that former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, indicted for fraud, was a “great icon” who did a “great job”), says his aims with the proposal are to reduce taxes, fix education, and rebuild infrastructure. But opponents of the bill say it will cost taxpayers billions while benefitting the rich, who would be able to shape the tax code of new states. A state legislative analyst said in 2014 that Draper’s first proposition would increase inequality.
The environmental organization the Planning and Conservation League sued to block the initiative. They argued that a decision with such extreme consequences for the state should be decided by the legislature before it was put to a popular vote. Judges agreed, writing that there were “significant questions” about “the proposition’s validity.”
“The potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election,” the ruling read, according to Politico.
“We’re delighted by the California Supreme Court’s order,” Caryle Hall, an attorney representing the environmental organization, told Politico. “It should not have been on the ballot; it has no possibility of qualifying as an appropriate matter that can be put on the ballot by initiative.”
Unsurprisingly, Draper responded to the decision with anger. “Apparently, the insiders are in cahoots and the establishment doesn’t want to find out how many people don’t like the way California is being governed,” he wrote in an email to Politico. “They are afraid to know the answer as to whether we need a fresh start here in California.”
While this attempt to split up California was driven by the right, it’s started to gain some traction on the left as well. California is the most populous state in the union, with almost 40 million residents, yet it has only two senators, like every other state, including those with less than a million people. The voting power of California voters, who are predominantly progressive, is thus diluted. In the new book It’s Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics, writer and political scientist David Faris argues that California should be split into six states as a way to ensure more Democratic senators will make it to Congress.
For now, the proposition is dead, and it’s unlikely to pass through the legislature. But if rich people like Draper have the money and the willpower to keep this dumb idea in the public sphere, we probably have not heard the last of it.