SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - Long-shot efforts by a trio of remote Northern California counties to begin the process of seceding from the most populous U.S. state failed on Tuesday in two referendums and succeeded in one.
Secession efforts appear every now and then in California, in this case driven by local vexations with state government, but face an uphill battle thanks to required support from the state legislature as well as the U.S. Congress to succeed.
The latest move involved two counties - Del Norte and Tehama - where supporters want to leave California to form a new state they hope to name after the third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, who once imagined that part of western North America might develop into a freestanding republic.
The measures, which would have directed the boards of supervisors in the counties to declare support for leaving the state, passed in Tehama with 56 percent of voters in favor and 44 percent opposed, but failed in Del Norte, with 59 percent opposed and 41 percent in favor, according to election results posted by the state.
A measure in a third county, Siskiyou, to declare itself the Republic of Jefferson, also failed, with 56 percent of voters opposed and 44 percent in favor, the state said.
Supporters in the counties, which have more registered Republicans than Democrats, had hoped to gain momentum for the creation of a new state from part of Northern California, saying they were poorly represented in the state legislature, which is dominated by Democrats.
Opponents say the measures would sound an economic death knell for the area, given its poverty and high unemployment.
The passage of the measure in Tehama County does not mean that the county will secede, only that the Board of Supervisors has been directed to declare its support for such a move.
Efforts to chop up California boast a long history. Disgruntled residents first proposed a state of Jefferson, also comprising counties in nearby southern Oregon, in the 1940s.
In 1993, after voters in 27 counties approved, the state Assembly agreed to a nonbinding statewide vote on whether to divide California into three. But the measure never made it into the state Senate, and the referendum was never held.
More recently, venture capitalist Tim Draper suggested splitting California into six separate states, while fellow venture capitalist Balaji Srinivasan proposed that Silicon Valley secede from the country. None of the proposals have come to pass.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Jim Loney