A Menlo Park venture capitalist who dabbles in bitcoins and calls himself the “riskmaster” on Tuesday took what may be his most audacious action yet, submitting petitions he said will qualify a 2016 initiative to break California into six separate states.
Timothy Draper gave elections officials the first petitions of several that he will submit this week that contain 1.3 million signatures, more than enough for the measure to qualify as a statewide voter initiative, he said. Draper, who shuns allegiance to any political party, has spent $4.9 million of his own money on the petition drive.
At a news conference he organized outside the Sacramento County Voter Registration and Elections Department, Draper faced a barrage of reporters’ questions about his motives. He denied that his campaign was an attempt to seed a future political career. Draper, 56, said that California’s government is dysfunctional in part because the state is too large. Cleaving California into six smaller pieces would create states with governments closer to the people, he said.
“When the people and their state are no longer in sync, and large populations feel that they are not being represented and when the state fails to provide the services that it promises to our citizens, then we lose our democracy,” Draper said, reading his speech from an iPad. The ballot measure, he said, “Gives us the opportunity to reboot and refresh our state government.”
County election officials will determine whether the petitions contain the valid signatures of a required 807,615 Californians who are registered to vote. Opponents of the measure, including Democratic political strategist Steve Maviglio, are skeptical that the breakup will ever occur, but are planning a serious campaign to fight the initiative.
A Field Poll in February found that 59% of California voters oppose a breakup of the state, Maviglio noted, and the strategist predicted the business community and Democratic and Republican leaders will will campaign against it. “There is no groundswell of support for this,” said Maviglio. California, he said, “is going to be a laughing stock on [TV comedy shows, including] Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman because of this idea. For anyone considering investment in our state, this raises a question of uncertainty.”
Even if voters approve the ballot measure, breaking up California would have to win approval of Congress, which he said is doubtful. “Is Congress going to give California 10 more senators?” Maviglio asked.
A spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown also raised questions about the feasibility of the proposal. “The proposal has serious practical challenges,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown.