Calexit Could Qualify for Ballot Cheaply

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The rule of thumb these days is that qualifying an initiative for the California ballot is a $3 million proposition.

Calexit could be cheaper.

The reason: people know what Calexit is. And the topic is likely to be a conversation starter.

And petition circulators like conversation starters.

Indeed, the Calexit initiative could fit nicely into a proven strategy of circulators: Approach people with a well-known hot-button issue to get them to stop and sign all your petitions.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re carrying obscure initiatives that pay you well. This is often the case with local issues that have big financial backers; in California, the typical scenario is one mall owner pushing an initiative to block a new mall from opening. But few people may know about the new mall. So you can’t shout out about the mall petition and get people to stop as they walk by you on the street or in front of a store.

You need to yell something that gets them to stop. So you might have a petition with little or no money behind it, but an easy to explain idea. Like something that promises to lower gas prices. “Sign this to lower your gas prices!”

Calexit would work well. You could pitch Calexit. Or you could say: Sign this to tell Donald Trump to go to hell! The possibilities are endless.

Calexit isn’t a natural bellringer—it’s controversial and has more opponents than supporters. And I don’t think it could qualify entirely this way—there would have to be real financial support, but maybe not as much as is typical.

We’re early in the season to circulate initiatives for the November 2018 ballot. But there are local measures circulating. Calexit may find a relatively easy path to the ballot.

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