A Silicon Valley venture capitalist’s pipe dream to split up California into several states inched a little closer to reality last month when it made it onto the November ballot. But on Wednesday, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided to scrap the plan from the ballot. Tim Draper, the billionaire behind the measure, responded to the ruling: “WTF?”
Draper reportedly spent $1.2 million to further the aptly-titled Cal 3 plan, which would have divided California into three states: Southern California, Northern California, and California. While he did collect more than 600,000 signatures, nearly double the required amount to get on the ballot, the Supreme Court ultimately reviewed the measure after a legal challenge was filed by the Planning and Conservation League (PCL) last week. In a statement to Gizmodo, PCL executive director Howard Penn said the environmental organization “opposed the measure because splitting the state up doesn’t solve any of our existing challenges, it just makes them worse. We have worked hard for the past 50 plus years on statewide policies that help make California a healthy place to live. If the state gets split up into three parts, it would be like hitting the reset button and starting over… you won’t know what you’ll get with three new states.”
The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in PCL’s favor: “Because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity, and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election, respondent Alex Padilla, as Secretary of State of the State of California, is directed to refrain from placing Proposition 9 on the November 6, 2018, ballot.”
Draper responded in a Facebook post, accusing “insiders” of being “in cahoots.” He added:
“The whole point of the initiative process was to be set up as a protection from a government that was no longer representing its people. Now that protection has been corrupted. Whether you agree or not with this initiative, this is not the way democracies are supposed to work. This kind of corruption is what happens in third world countries.”
Draper’s stated motivation for carving up the state into smaller entities is to bring Californians closer to their government. “Our government will be more in touch with our individual constituents,” Draper told TIME in 2014 when he was championing his previous plan to split up California into not three, but six different states.
Steven Maviglio, a Democratic political consultant who has campaigned against the plan, told Mercury News that “Splitting California into three new states will triple the amount of special interests, lobbyists, politicians and bureaucracy,” adding that the state can improve the way it confronts its problems but that Draper’s Cal 3 plan “is a massive distraction that will cause political chaos and greater inequality.”
If Draper’s plan did make it onto the ballot, it would have still needed a majority of the votes in November as well as approval by Congress.
Draper’s impassioned conviction that he, an investor and bitcoin enthusiast, knows what’s politically in the best interest of all Californians is a classic example of the dangerous hubris of wildly wealthy tech entrepreneurs. It’s hardly the first time a Silicon Valley billionaire extended their influence into governmental affairs, and it certainly won’t be the last. But the Supreme Court’s skepticism of Draper’s plan, prompting the justices to review and ultimately shoot down the measure, prove that a million dollars and hundreds of thousands of (likely misguided) residents aren’t enough to bring a wild plan to life.
Updated at 12:45pm ET with a comment from the Planning and Conservation League.