One of the most well-known groups pushing for California to secede from the rest of the country got the OK from state officials last week to collect signatures for a secession question on a future ballot.
The news of the approval came on the heels of California's 170th “birthday,” or anniversary marking the day it became the 31st state in the union. If the signature collection by pro-independence group Yes California is successful, residents would, in an undetermined future election, decide whether to cast a “no confidence” vote in the United States and create a commission to evaluate the Golden State’s ability to govern itself.
Yes California is one of several small, but vocal, organizations pushing for state independence. Its leaders are now working to secure 623,212 registered voter signatures in the next 180 days to qualify for the ballot, according to Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state.
It’s not the first time the group has collected signatures to push California to break up with the rest of the United States, taking its wealthy tech titans and 40 million residents with it.
The effort has become an evergreen conversation that seems to have only ramped up in recent years. A few of California’s rich and powerful, including venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, have put their weight behind the idea, particularly after President Donald Trump’s 2016 election win.
“We can re-enter the union after California becomes a nation,” Pishevar told CNBC in 2016 as a direct response to Trump's election. “As the sixth largest economy in the world, the economic engine of the nation and provider of a large percentage of the federal budget, California carries a lot of weight.”
But little, if anything, has come of those efforts to date.
Most experts and pundits seem to agree it’s unlikely that secession is in California’s future, but others argue that if any state is going to do it, California could be a good bet, particularly as political divisions widen.
In fact, the debate on whether the state should stay or go has been around long enough that there’s no shortage of published thought experiments on the topic. The History Channel last week even reminded everyone of the 25 days in 1846 that California was, indeed, its own nation.
If Yes California is successful in its effort to put a no confidence vote on the ballot and it passes, the state would need to come up with about $1 million to form the commission to analyze California’s ability to govern itself, according to an analysis by the state’s legislative analyst and director of finance.
But that’s a bridge California will cross when—or if—it gets there.