Voters in San Bernardino County, California, narrowly approved a ballot measure last week allowing officials to explore options to possibly secede the fifth-most populous county from the Golden State.
Over the summer, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors advanced the secession measure to the ballot, resulting in about 50% of voters supporting the idea, according to unofficial election results from the county’s Registrar of Voters.
San Bernardino Voter Information Guide asked county residents under Measure EE if officials should “study and advocate for all options to obtain the county’s fair share of state funding, including secession from the State of California.”
Jeff Burum, a local real state developer who first proposed the idea before it qualified for ballot placement, told local media the term “secession” served more as a trigger word to spark intellectual debate on the issue and a final ultimatum to grab the resident’s attention.
“I’m embarrassed where we are in this country right now,” Burum said, according to the San Bernardino Sun. “Forty-nine percent of people voted against ‘fairness!’”
Burum said the term “fair share” might have confused voters as advocates for the study argue that it’s more about political and economic fairness for the largest county in the United States. San Bernardino County encompasses more than 20,000 square miles.
Data from the California State controller’s office ranked San Bernardino County 36th out of 56 counties in looking at how much counties get from the state and federal governments per capita. While Los Angeles County ranked slightly ahead at 28th, San Bernardino still receives more funding from the state and federal governments than wealthy districts like Sonoma (45th), Santa Barbara (52nd), and Orange (55th) Counties.
“Republicans thought it was a woke term,” Burum said. “The woke thought it was a wealthy developer doing it. Everyone had their reasons for voting against it.”
As extreme as a state divorce sounds, constitutional law governs provisions for a state to separate, join, or create a new form on its own, with a county, or a portion of another state, county officials said.
State or county officials would need approval from all state legislatures, followed by Congress and the Senate, and eventually require approval from the President of the United States before secession occurs.
However, if the county goes through the process, the supervisors expressed concerns about declaring independence from California, such as health and social services, funding for schools, and forming its own National Guard.
But considering San Bernardino County holds a population of 2.1 million people, more than 14 other states in the Union, the statistic caught the supervisors’ curiosity about how the county could operate as an economy apart from California.
Curt Hagman, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, told local media that county officials would explore what the steps would look like once officials have certified the election results.
“We’re going to take one step at a time and dig into the budgets and compare ourselves to other counties,” Hagman said.
He added the measure piqued the interest of neighboring counties that “would like some of the same information.”
“So this may be a multi-county effort,” Hagman said.
Paul Preston, founder of New California State, a group attempting to separate and free themselves “from the tyranny and lawlessness of California,” told local media that Burum and supporters of the measure aren’t alone in wanting to secede.
“The public does want to separate from Sacramento,” Preston said. “There’s no question about that — that’s statewide.”
If the county successfully secedes from California, Burum suggested naming the new state “Empire,” which would be the first new state since Hawaii joined the United States in 1959.
“I’m pretty sure that a majority of counties in California are unhappy with how they’re being governed,” he said. “I think Sacramento’s going to have a wakeup call.”
According to the California State Library, state residents made at least 220 attempts to break up California when it became a state in 1850.