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CA Supreme Court Takes Initiative to Split Up the State Off the Ballot

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 20, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

California has about 18 million voters, but only six were necessary to decide whether it should be divided into three states.

The state Supreme Court, in an unusual preemptory strike, removed a voter initiative from the November ballot. Proposition 9 would have given voters a chance to decide California's boundaries.

Then this happened in Planning and Conservation League v. Padilla.

Prop. "Not" 9

Prop. 9 had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but opponents filed suit to stop it. Nine days later, the state supreme court obliged.

"Significant questions regarding the proposition's validity" and "potential harm," the court reasoned. It set times for the parties to respond and reply into September.

Normally, the court hears challenges to ballot measures after the popular vote. After all, any issues are theoretically mooted if an initiative fails.

But this time the "potential harm" was more serious than a death penalty appeal. In other words, the sky would fall and California would fall into the ocean if the people voted.

Maybe Next Time?

The issue seems to be whether the proposed boundary changes would be a "revision" of the state constitution. If so, it would be invalid because constitutional amendments have to be approved by two-thirds of the legislature.

Although the supreme court has not ruled on the issue, the justices have probably already made up their minds. "They would not have removed it from the ballot unless it was their considered judgment that it is very likely not a valid measure that can go to the voters," University of Illinois law school dean Vikram Amar told the Los Angeles Times.

Tim Draper, a Bay Area venture capitalist who drafted and sponsored Prop. 9, was indignant about the court order. He said the initiative process was designed to protect people from an unresponsive government.

"Now that protection has been corrupted," he told the SF Chronicle. He said the justices "probably would have lost their jobs" under the three-state plan.

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