Silicon Valley millionaire investor Tim Draper announced last week that his proposal to split California into six separate states gathered enough signatures to place the measure on a ballot in 2016.
But opponents of the so-called Six Californias — a group called One California — have filed a complaint with Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
They are asking her to investigate whether the group hired to collect the signatures, Arno Political Consultants, committed voter fraud in gathering the signatures, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
It’s a misdemeanour offence to intentionally make false statements when gathering a voter signatures.
Draper’s plan would split the state along geographic lines. Proponents say dividing the state would help create a more business-friendly environment, solve the state’s water issues, and ease traffic congestion. Opponents say that, among other things, the plan is short-sighted at best and the divisions are unequal and impractical.
Even if voters approve the measure, it would still need to be approved by Congress.
Six Californias says that it has gathered more than 1.3 million signatures; they needed 807,000 valid signatures.
According to the Contra Costa Times, a few voters from different parts of the state say they were duped and that signature gatherers lied to them about what they were signing. Stories about the signature gathering prompted these voters to reach out and tell their experience with alleged fraud.
“Within the last two weeks, I was approached in front of the Dollar Store in Valley West shopping center in Arcata, CA, by a young man with a petition who suggested that if I signed the petition, I would be opposing the Attorney General of California’s intention to split the state into six states,” Humboldt County resident Illijana Asara wrote in an email to the Contra Costa Times.
She told the person that she knew that the Attorney General was not behind this measure, and the person walked away.
And in an email to Valleywag this week, another person claims the same thing happened to her. “[The signature gatherer] had a sign at a small table in front of the store that said ‘Raise the minimum wage from $US9.00 to $US12.00 by 2016,'” the woman writes. “I agreed and she handed me the clipboard, but as I started to read the measure she said “Oh that’s to split California into six states.”
Michael Arno, who owns the firm that hired more than 1,000 people to circulate the petition around the state, denies any innapropriate behaviour. But, he says, although it’s possible that the allegations are true, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to how many signatures they collected.
“I can’t control all circulators, and I think it’s a very de minimis problem when you figure we collected 1.3 million signatures,” he told the Contra Costa Times.