In summary

The California Supreme Court ruled that a proposal to divide the state in three cannot be placed on the November ballot.

This afternoon, the California Supreme Court ruled that a proposal to divide the state in three cannot be placed on the November ballot.

Though the “Three Californias” initiative gathered over 450,000 verified signatures, initially qualifying as “Proposition 9,” its place on the ballot was contested by the Planning and Conservation League, a nonprofit environmental organization. The group argued that trisecting the state would substantially “revise” the California Constitution, rather than simply “amend” it.

Voters can only amend the constitution via ballot propositions. Revisions—sweeping changes to the structure or function of government—require two-thirds approval of both the state Assembly and Senate before being placed on the ballot.

The Court did not take a side in that debate but agreed to take the proposition off of this year’s ballot while the question is resolved.

“Because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity, and because we conclude that 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 Secretary of State) is directed to refrain from placing Proposition 9 on the November 6, 2018, ballot,” the court wrote.

The decision throws another wrench into Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s latest effort to chop up the Golden State into more manageable sized pieces. Draper also funded a “Six Californias” initiative for the 2014 ballot.

“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,” Draper said in an email. “Whether you agree or not with this initiative, this is not the way democracies are supposed to work. This kind of corruption is what happens in third world countries.”

Draper has argued that California has grown too large and economically diverse to be effectively governed.

“The citizens of the whole state would be better served by three smaller state governments,” read the text of the most recent measure.

“Proposition 9 was a costly, flawed scheme that will waste billions of California taxpayer dollars, create chaos in public services including safeguarding our environment and literally eliminate the State of California – all to satisfy the whims of one billionaire,” Planning and Conservation League’s executive director Howard Penn said in a press release.

The court gave Draper 30 days to make his case for why the Three Californias proposal is a constitutional use of the initiative process. But even if he persuades the court, the earliest it could appear on regular statewide ballot is 2020.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.

Ben Christopher

Ben covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and budget. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, he has written...