Politics

Californians Are Calling for a 'Calexit' from the U.S. -- Here's How a Secession Could Work

Far-fetched as it may sound, the plan started gathering steam after Tuesday night's surprising vote.
Californians Are Calling for a 'Calexit' from the U.S. -- Here's How a Secession Could Work

Protesters against president-elect Donald Trump march through Oakland, California, on November 9.

Image credit: Noah Berger/Reuters
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A fringe political group in California wants to opt out of a Donald Trump presidency by leaving the union.

The Yes California Independence Campaign aims to put a referendum on a 2018 ballot that, if passed, would make California an independent country.

Far-fetched as it may sound, the plan started gathering steam after Tuesday night's surprising vote. The movement has an impressive backer in Shervin Pishevar, a well-known angel investor who offered to bankroll the campaign.

"As the sixth largest economy in the world, California is more economically powerful than France and has a population larger than Poland. Point by point, California compares and competes with countries, not just the 49 other states," Yes California wrote in a statement.

Louis Marinelli, an outspoken political activist and president of Yes California, envisions California as a sovereign entity within the U.S., much like Scotland in the United Kingdom.

There is no clear path for how California might appeal to the federal government so that it may leave. The U.S. Constitution lays out procedures for how a new state may enter the union, but there are no pre-existing protocols for a nation to exit.

Marinelli, however, sees a workaround.

The process most likely with a ballot measure passed by California voters.

In 2015, Marinelli paid $200 each to get nine initiatives related to secession on a statewide ballot, according to The Los Angeles Times. None garnered the nearly 400,000 signatures necessary to appear on the ballot. So Marinelli and his followers are forced to start over.

Yes California now aims to gather enough signatures to put a referendum on the 2018 ballot, when Californians will choose their next governor.

Californians across the state marched in protest of president-elect Donald Trump on election night.
Image credit: Noah Berger/Reuters

Should a clear majority declare their support for a Brexit-style departure, the group may follow down one of two paths. Both lean on a significant case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1869 -- Texas v. White -- which touched on a state's ability to seceded.

Here's option 1, as described in a statement from Yes California:

"A member of the California federal delegation to Washington would propose an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing the State of California to withdraw from the Union. The Amendment would have to be approved by 2/3 of the House of Representatives and 2/3 of the Senate. If the Amendment passed it would be sent to the fifty state legislatures to be considered (to satisfy the "consent of the states" requirement in Texas v. White). It would need to be accepted by at least 38 of the 50 state legislatures to be adopted.

Alternatively:

"California could call for a convention of the states (which is currently being organized to tackle other constitutional amendments as we speak) and the Amendment granting California its independence would have to be approved by 2/3 of the delegates to this convention. If it passed, the Amendment would be sent to the fifty state legislatures to be considered and 38 of the 50 states would have to approve the measure in order for it to be adopted."

No state has ever seceded from the union, despite Texas' best efforts earlier this year.

"The legality of seceding is problematic,' Eric McDaniel, associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Texas Tribune in June, at the height of Brexit hysteria. "The Civil War played a very big role in establishing the power of the federal government and cementing that the federal government has the final say in these issues."

Marinelli acknowledges the road ahead is long.

"What's going on in the U.S. politically and culturally is so different from what's happening here," Marinelli told the LA Times in 2015. "I want California to be all it can, and our group feels the political and cultural connection to the US is holding us back from our potential."


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