Donald Trump may have won the electoral college, but he lost California, the country’s most populous state. While Trump wasn’t expected to win the Golden State, it wasn’t even close in the popular vote there. After the nationwide results came in and Trump was declared the victor over Hillary Clinton, #Calexit became a trend on Twitter, with some calling for California to secede from the Union. Is it possible for California to pull that off? The answer is yes, but it can’t just get up and leave the room.
The Supreme Court case Texas v. White (1869) set the ground rules for how a state could leave the Union after the Civil War. In that case, the Texas Reconstruction government argued that the state’s Confederate government illegally sold U.S. bonds during the war. However, the Court ruled that Texas never officially left the Union because states cannot do so unilaterally. In other words, the California state government couldn’t just one day decide to secede from the union and expect the U.S. government to accept that.
Here’s the specific part of Texas v. White relevant to this case:
When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.
The first step to California (or any state for that matter) seceding from the Union is likely a ballot measure for voters. There is already a group called Yes California pushing for a referendum on Californian independence, noting that the state would be the sixth-largest economy in the world if it were its own country.
Getting the referendum on the ballot and winning in an election might be the easiest part of this procedure. As Yes California notes, there are two possible next steps. First, a member of California’s congressional delegation could propose an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow California to leave. The Amendment needs to pass two-thirds of the House and senate and then be approved by at least 38 of 50 states.
A second possible path after a referendum would be California calling for a states convention, where two-thirds of the delegates from 50 states approve it. If it passes, it would still need to be ratified by 38 of the 50 state legislatures.
Even before Trump’s victory became certain, Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar announced that he will seriously fund a campaign for California to “become its own nation.”
The Yes California group also tweeted about their initiative on Wednesday morning.
Not all Californians voted for Clinton. With 100 percent of the votes counted, the Associated Press reported that Clinton received 61 percent of the votes, while Trump received 33 percent. Clinton won 5.4 million votes, while Trump picked up 2.9 million votes, mostly in Northern and Central California counties. Clinton scored overwhelming victories in the cities along the coast, capturing 85.3 percent of the vote in San Francisco County and 71.5 percent of the vote in Los Angeles county.
Thanks to California’s votes, Clinton actually won the popular vote by the thinnest of margins, but lost the electoral college. With 97 percent of the votes in, the Associated Press is reporting that Clinton received 59,196,894 votes to Trump’s 59,033,713. However, Trump received 276 electoral college votes, and Clinton received 218.
According to recent Census estimates, California has an estimated population of 39.1 million people and 38.8 percent of the population is Hispanic. Between 2010 and 2014, the Census estimated that 27 percent of the state’s population was born outside the U.S.
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