Calexit gains momentum. Could California actually leave the nation?

A group calling for California to secede from the United States officially submitted a proposed ballot measure on Monday for review.

Reed Saxon/AP
High school students protest against the election of President-elect Donald Trump on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, Nov. 14.

Calls for California to secede from the United States gained traction after President-elect Donald Trump won the election, and the group spearheading the efforts took a formal step forward Monday by submitting a proposed petition to put the question to a vote.

The Yes California Independence Campaign hopes that the question, which asks if Californians want to strip the state constitution language that says the state is an "inseparable part of the nation," will gather enough signatures to make the November 2018 ballot.

"We’re doing it now because of all the overwhelming attention," Marcus Ruiz Evans, vice president and co-founder of Yes California, told the Los Angeles Times.

The movement has tried for more than two years to spread the idea of secession but so far has failed in getting initiatives to institute California as a separate nation and rename the governor "president" of California on the ballot. But their cause went viral on social media after the elections with the hashtag #CalExit, reflecting the accumulated frustration and isolation some Californians feel from the rest of the country.

"In our view, the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values, and our continued statehood means California will continue subsidizing the other states to our own detriment," the group wrote in a statement after the elections. "California could do more good as an independent country than it is able to do as a just a U.S. state."

According to the group’s website, California should secede because the state contributes more money to the federal government than it receives in spending, the state’s electoral votes have not affected a presidential election since 1876, and Californians differ from the rest of the nation in the values they uphold, ranging from an openness to diversity to a fierce embrace of environmentalism.

But succeeding is a long shot. The group will have to collect enough signatures to qualify it for a spot on the November 2018 ballot that will determine if a special election should be held on March of the following year to decide on the issue. The latter step would require support from 55 percent of voters, and if they achieve the threshold, they’ll have to gain approval from Congress and 38 states. As The Christian Science Monitor previously reported, multiple proposals for secession have dotted California's – and other states’ – history for decades.

"I don’t think it gets to the point where we have to worry about those details and how to make it work," Daniel Farber, law professor at University of California at Berkeley told the Sacramento Bee. "Many of us have had that thought from time to time, but in the end it’s not really a feasible option as far as I can see."

A recent poll from KPIX 5/SurveyUSA of 800 California voters also found that 57 percent of those surveyed were opposed to secession.

Even though the group doesn’t have the substantial financial backing to launch the signature-collecting phase typical of other ballot initiatives, Mr. Evans is confident that their 13,000 volunteers will pull through. He also said that they plan to bring their case to the United Nations under its treaty on self-determination, circumventing congressional approval.

"We’re not ashamed about going around Washington to achieve it," Louis Marinelli, president of Yes California, told the Sacramento Bee. "Congress can’t tie its shoes. We can wait our whole life while Congress tries to grapple with this, and they won’t do anything."

The attorney general’s office will review the proposal and submit language for a title and summary. Evans hopes that they can begin collecting signatures after Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2018.

"We know that you don't just vote and that it happens. This would be to start the conversation," he said. "You have to have something where you say this is what the public wants."

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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