A campaign in California pushing for the state’s secession from the United States over the election of Donald Trump as president is gaining momentum after supporters were allowed to start collecting signatures for the independence measure to be put to a vote. California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla gave permission on Thursday for proponents of “Calexit” to start collecting the nearly 600,000 signatures needed to initiate a referendum for exiting the country.
Some 585,407 signatures are required by July 25 for the measure to qualify for an initial ballot in November 2018. Voters would then need to decide in another referendum in 2019 whether California should become a separate country. A “Yes” vote would repeal clauses in the California Constitution “stating California is an inseparable part of the United States and that the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land,” a statement by Padilla’s office said.
California is the most populous state in the US with nearly 40 million residents and the world’s sixth-largest economy. The Yes California Independence Campaign, which promotes the secession of California from the United States, was formed in August 2015. Trump’s election gave a huge boost to the campaign, which is also called Calexit by pundits comparing the effort to Brexit – Britain’s referendum to exit the European Union.
One in every three California residents supports the state’s peaceful withdrawal from the union, with many of them strongly opposed to Trump’s presidential election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released last week. At an anti-Trump demonstration in Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday, protesters waved signs saying “California out of the United States” and “US out of California.”
“There’s such hostility towards Trump that many citizens believe it would be smarter to leave than fight,” said Democratic political consultant Steve Maviglio. The idea of secession carries on in some corners of the country, most notably in the state of Texas. However, secession is deemed highly unrealistic, facing political, legal and possibly even military obstacles. The United States fought the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 after eleven Southern states attempted to secede from the union.