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Secessionists formally launch quest for California's independence

Supporters of a plan for California to secede from the union took their first formal step Monday morning, submitting a proposed ballot measure to the state attorney general’s office in the hopes of a statewide vote as soon as 2018.

Marcus Ruiz Evans, the vice president and co-founder of Yes California, said his group had been planning to wait for a later election, but the presidential election of Donald Trump sped up the timeline.

“We’re doing it now because of all of the overwhelming attention,” Evans said.

The Yes California group has been around for more than two years, Evans said. It is based around California taxpayers paying more money to the federal government than the state receives in spending, that Californians are culturally different from the rest of the country, and that national media and organizations routinely criticize Californians for being out of step with the rest of the U.S.

Members of the Yes California group protest at the state Capitol on Nov. 9. (Sophia Bollag / Los Angeles Times)
Members of the Yes California group protest at the state Capitol on Nov. 9. (Sophia Bollag / Los Angeles Times)

The attorney general’s office will give the ballot measure a title and summary, and Evans said he hopes to begin collecting signatures to get it on the ballot in the spring. Qualifying ballot measures typically requires significant resources to pay signature gatherers, and Yes California doesn’t have major financial backing. But Evans said 13,000 people have volunteered to collect signatures.

“This is real,” Evans said. “We treat it seriously.”

Various groups have made noise about California forming its own country in the wake of Trump’s election this month, most prominently Silicon Valley financier Shervin Pishevar. But similar proposals have dotted the state’s political landscape for years. Yes California has tried and failed previously , and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper was not able to get a proposal to split California into six states onto the 2016 ballot.

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