The far-fetched #Calexit proposal to secede from President Trump's United States officially has zero political contributions, according to state records. But organizers say you need to have some faith in the initiative, which would ask voters in the November 2018 statewide election to approve secession.
While Secretary of State data shows no money raised for Yes California (the group behind the proposed measure), co-founder Marcus Ruiz Evans says his movement will rewrite the book on how to get an initiative on the ballot. The organization might have only a few thousand dollars on hand, according to Evans, but it will rely on a fired-up group of volunteers to gather the 585,407 valid signatures needed to put "California nationhood" before voters.
Normally such an effort costs $2 million to $3 million, maybe more, says longtime state political consultant Steve Maviglio. The last time a grassroots initiative made the ballot without the multimillion-dollar help of a professional signature-gathering firm was in 1998, with Proposition 103, which reformed auto insurance, he says.
Maviglio says Yes California has an uphill battle, including having to gather perhaps double the number of required voter signatures in order to ensure enough are valid. The effort can be more challenging when an organization is a relative upstart like Yes California, he says.
"It's really difficult, particularly when you don't have an existing organization to collect signatures," he says. "There's a cartel of signature-gathering companies that have cornered the market. To get around that is virtually impossible."
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Signature gatherers have 180 days under state law to get valid endorsements submitted to the Secretary of State. #Calexit volunteers are already in grocery store parking lots this week, Evans says.
"We have 8,000 volunteers already," he says. "There's enough unique about this movement that I think we have a fair shot."
Evans says Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' relative success in the Golden State — he pulled rock show–size crowds during his appearances here — bodes well for the California independence movement.
"This is Bernie Sanders territory," Evans says. "California was the epicenter for the Sanders revolution. "This isn't, do we want school bonds? It's a radical topic that's highly emotional."