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Ballot measures

'Calexit' organizers can now start collecting signatures to get California secession on the ballot

Supporters of the campaign for California to secede from the United States can now begin collecting the hundreds of thousands of signatures they need to get a proposed "Calexit" initiative on the ballot.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla cleared the proposed initiative to begin collecting signatures on Thursday.

If the measure gets on the ballot and gains approval by a majority of voters, it would repeal clauses in the California Constitution stating that the state is an "inseparable part of the United States" and that the U.S. Constitution is the "supreme law of the land," according to the title and summary prepared by the state attorney general's office.

The measure would place another question on the ballot in 2019, asking whether California should become a separate country. If at least half of registered voters participate in that vote, with at least 55% of those voting to approve, the results would be treated as California's declaration of independence.

The current measure's fiscal effect is "dependent on various factors," writes the state's nonpartisan legislative analyst, and if it succeeds would result in "major, but unknown budgetary impacts."

The proposal's backers, known as Yes California, have argued that the state is culturally out of step with the rest of the U.S. and that California pays more money to the federal government than it receives in spending. The election of President Trump has only strengthened their argument, they say .

"California loses [by] being a part of America culturally and financially," said Marcus Ruiz Evans, one of the group's founders. "It could be a nation all its own, everybody knows that. The only question is if they want to break off."

It's unclear how the group will collect the required 585,407 valid signatures from registered voters over the next 180 days to qualify for the ballot.

A campaign committee, Yes California Independence Committee, has raised no funds so far, according to records from the secretary of state. But Evans says that his group has more than 7,000 volunteers (significantly down from a 13,000 estimate in December) ready to gather signatures and that voters can expect to see signature gatherers on the streets in the next couple of days.

Yes California says that even if the proposed initiative does land on the ballot and voters approve it, such an unprecedented move to secede would need to receive approval of at least a majority of the states in the union, among other legal hurdles .

Evans says he's not fazed.

"America already hates California, and America votes on emotions," he said. "I think we'd have the votes today if we held it."

UPDATE

7:01 p.m.: This post has been updated to clarify that the proposed initiative would place a future vote on California's secession on the ballot in 2019.

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