The author of the 'Calexit' initiative calls it quits on his proposal for a 2018 ballot measure

Less than three months after being given the green light to start gathering voter signatures, the author of a closely watched effort to split California from the United States has decided to withdraw his proposal.

Marcus Ruiz Evans, the initiative's official proponent, sent an email Monday to the secretary of state's office asking to cancel his initiative. State election law allows a proposed ballot measure to be recalled for any reason, as long as it happens prior to 131 days before the election. But to do so, Evans must submit a signed letter — which has yet to be received.

"The biggest obstacle to Calexit is having a professional grass roots administration," Evans said in an email to The Times. He also said he hopes to revive the issue later this spring with a new organization.

Evans' initiative would have asked voters next November to call a special election in March 2019, at which time they would be asked to vote on formal secession from the U.S. Whether voter approval could have actually turned California into an independent nation was a source of debate by constitutional experts, with some saying there was no currently operational method for a state to do so. The U.S. Constitution only lays out the steps for a state to join the union.

Nonetheless, the idea gained a broad following on social media in the wake of President Trump's electoral victory; Evans launched the effort just weeks after Trump's election. By December, another early leader of the effort had opened what he called a California embassy in Moscow, and in the months afterward, there was substantial infighting among the various groups who supported secession.

Louis Marinelli, a former San Diego resident who now lives in Russia and was the man behind the Moscow venture, became a focal point of criticism from some of the effort's backers. Nonetheless, he laid blame for the initiative's failure on Monday with coverage by the news media that in an email he said "simultaneously sensationalized, exaggerated, and dramatized information about our campaign and particularly about myself in an effort to delegitimize our effort and demoralize our supporters."

Backers would have had to collect 585,407 valid voter signatures by July 25 to qualify. The failure of their effort adds another chapter to a collection of more than 200 earlier attempts to either declare independence or to split California into multiple new states. The most well known in recent years, a 2014 proposal to split California into six new states, failed even after its Silicon Valley backer spent $5 million collecting voter signatures.

Marinelli wrote in his email to supporters that he believes the effort can gain traction at some point in the future.

"The truth is Calexit, like any campaign, is entirely possible with the right amount of public support," he wrote. "With the right amount of public support, anything can be accomplished regardless of legal or constitutional barriers."

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