On January 15th, a movement to create the state of New California took off. Parts of California have tried to create their own states before, but all prior attempts have been unsuccessful. With all that in mind, is it really possible to split California into two separate states?
The map of New California created by the movement’s founder, Robert Paul Preston, shows that old California would retain coastal counties from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. New California would consist of the rest of the state — mostly rural inland counties, along with San Diego and Orange County. Preston told CBS Sacramento that he wanted to separate from the larger state because of the way the California government currently handles policy regarding issues like taxes and education.
Preston’s New California could technically happen.
There is precedent for a state splitting in two. During the Civil War, the western half of Virginia protested the rest of the state’s decision to join the confederacy. As a result, West Virginia was born in 1863.
But the United States constitution stipulates that any new state formed from a preexisting state must get permission from the state’s legislature. Then, both houses of U.S. Congress would have to vote yes on the measure. West Virginia was able to accomplish this in the midst of the Civil War, but it’s uncertain that the modern California government would be as sympathetic to New California secessionists.
This all assumes that Preston’s measure would make it to the state legislature. For a citizen-drafted initiative to be considered by the California state government, a certain number of voters (at least 5 percent of the number who voted in the last race for governor) have to sign a petition to get it put on the ballot at the next state election.
Other Californians have made past attempts to divide the state. In 2014, billionaire Tim Draper proposed dividing California into six states, but only 66 percent of the signatures the petition received were valid, disqualifying it from being voted on in the statewide election.
Draper made another attempt to separate California into multiple states in August, this time proposing to split California into three. This measure ultimately failed too.
Given the lack of success previous measures have faced, it’s unlikely New California will become a state. For now, we’ll continue to enjoy the 50 states as they are.