A revolutionary initiative to split California into six separate states was balanced on a knife's edge Thursday, still well short of the verified signatures it needs to have even a chance of making the 2016 ballot.
Facing a Friday deadline, the initiative sponsored by Tim Draper, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, needs at least 207,752 valid signatures from Los Angeles and the four other counties that still have not reported their numbers to California's secretary of state. Anything short of that and the measure fails to qualify.
"We're waiting to hear from Los Angeles," said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the initiative effort. "We're confident that we collected enough signatures to qualify."
If they did, it won't have been by much. Using the state-required sampling of the raw signatures, there's no chance the Six Californias initiative will collect 110 percent of the required 807,615 valid signatures, which would automatically qualify the measure for the ballot.
Instead, supporters now hope to have at least 767,236 valid signatures, the 95 percent minimum needed to force counties to verify each of the 1.13 million signatures collected for the initiative.
That's not going to happen, predicted Steve Maviglio, a longtime Democratic operative running OneCalifornia, a bipartisan group opposed to the initiative.
"They had to do cartwheels to get people to sign this thing, and that shows in the atrocious percentage of valid signatures they have," he said.
As of Thursday afternoon, the initiative had 559,483 verified signatures, with a validity rate of just under 67 percent.
That's not good news, said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Action, which put Proposition 46 on the November ballot to require drug and alcohol testing of doctors.
70% is the goal
"You're always looking for at least 70 percent, because that's what the companies demand from their signature gatherers," she said.
Prop. 46 had a validity rate of 69.6 percent and was forced to go to the full count, Balber said.
"You'd prefer at least 71 or 72 percent," said Jon Golinger, a San Francisco activist who ran the effort for June's Proposition B waterfront height-limits measure. "A really good signature drive finishes somewhere in the 70s."
There are exceptions. In 2012, Proposition 30, which increased both the state sales and income taxes, had a validity rate of just over 67 percent. But because backers collected 1.46 million signatures, they had plenty of room to spare.
6 separate governments
Under Draper's measure, California would be divided into the states of Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, Central California, West California and South California. Each would have its own governor and legislature, along with members of Congress and two U.S. senators.
Draper argues that the smaller states would put people closer to their government and link together areas with similar concerns and interests. Opponents dismiss the measure as an unworkable plan that would never get the required approval from Congress.
Besides Los Angeles County, Trinity, Mariposa, San Benito and Inyo counties have not filed their reports with the state. But their 2,690 raw signatures are dwarfed by the 311,924 in Los Angeles County. To stay in the running for a chance at the November 2016 ballot, the Six Californias team needs about 207,000 valid signatures from Los Angeles, or 67 percent of the county's total.
If the initiative does hit the needed number, counties will have 30 working days, or about six weeks, to validate all the signatures turned in by supporters.
"We believe the process will work, regardless of how long it takes," said Salazar, the initiative's spokesman. "Like everyone else, we're waiting for Friday."