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The 'Calexit' plan to 'divorce' California from the U.S. is back again

The 'Calexit' plan to 'divorce' California from the U.S. is back again
The California state flag flies outside City Hall, in Los Angeles, California on Jan. 27, 2017. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Could the third time be the charm for advocates of California secession from the U.S.?

Most likely not, but a group called “Yes California” is giving it another try anyway. Secretary of State Alex Padilla said on Monday that the backers of the secession initiative, commonly known as “Calexit,” can begin collecting signatures in an attempt to place it on a ballot.

“Issue after issue, from immigration to agriculture, from taxation to banking, and on a host of other issues, it is clear that California and the United States have irreconcilable differences and it is time for a divorce,” the campaign’s website says. “We shall now begin circulating the petition forms for that divorce.”

Founder Louis Marinelli has introduced similar initiatives with little success beyond a few headlines and a lot of jokes. Based in San Diego in 2015, he introduced several independence-related initiatives that fizzled out.

Later he took his efforts to the “Yes California” campaign which collected signatures in 2017 for a ballot measure seeking to ask voters if California should become “a free, sovereign and independent country.”

Signature-gathering attempts were dropped amid questions about founder Louis Marinelli’s ties to Russia. More on that below.

Now Yes California is trying again. They want to ask Californians if they want to secede in 2020. If the measure passes, and yes, that’s a big if, an official referendum would be held in 2021.

“We realize it may seem like a long time to wait,” Louis Marinelli, the author of the referendum, said. “But we need time to have a serious dialogue with the people of California about why they should support the independence referendum by voting yes. The voters need to make an informed decision when they go to the polls to determine California’s political future.”

“Calexit” gained some attention after the 2016 election when some Californians were frustrated that President Donald Trump won the presidency despite the Golden State voting 61.5 percent for Hillary Clinton. Backers of Calexit are hoping for a boost given the higher turnout of the 2020 presidential election.

“If President Trump is reelected in 2020, Californians will want to secede from the United States just as they wanted to following the 2016 election,” the campaign says. “This ballot measure we are now circulating will make this vote possible. We are asking the people to hedge their bet in 2020: vote against Donald Trump, but at the same time vote to schedule an independence referendum for six months later on May 4, 2021. You may end up wanting the referendum if he is reelected.”

Yes California says its main policy concerns include education reform, universal health care, fighting climate change, localizing immigration enforcement and keeping the state’s tax revenue in the state.

Here’s what else you should know about it.

Marinelli, the main person behind the initiative, has been reported to be an American who has also lived in Russia. In 2017, he announced his intent to move to Russia for good and cut ties with the Calexit movement.

And yet he’s back again, listed on the current initiative, and reportedly living in California again.

What are the odds? Any such push for independence faces an extremely difficult road, as we’ve written before.

Seth Kaplowitz, a finance lecturer at San Diego State University, told CNBC that he thinks the effort will fade away.

"It would be ridiculous to secede from the union,” he said. “The only person who would probably be happy about that is probably Donald Trump."

Meanwhile, efforts to form a new state called “new California” and to split California into three separate states are also underway.

Yes California has until Oct. 17 to collect nearly 366,000 signatures.

Would you sign your name to get this measure on the ballot? Or is the idea bananas?

Email: abby.hamblin@sduniontribune.com

Twitter: @abbyhamblin

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