April 17 (UPI) -- The leaders of a constitutional drive to break the State of California away from the United States -- making it a standalone country -- shelved the effort Monday, at least temporarily.
The authors of a ballot initiative, "Yes California," said Monday they were suspending the effort after months of media exposure, and various criticisms, about the notion.
Marcus Ruiz Evans, the official author of the movement, sent an email to California's secretary of state Monday asking to withdraw the initiative, which could have gotten on the state's ballot in November 2018. Evans and Yes California President Louis J. Marinelli were working to gather enough signatures.
"For me, today, my ballot initiative petition drive came to an end," Marinelli wrote in an email to supporters. "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and our dream shall never die."
It's unclear how much support the so-called "Calexit" could have received on election day next year or whether it's even possible for California -- or any state, for that matter -- to formally break away from the United States, at all.
Evans, who resigned as vice president of Yes California this week, and Marinelli got behind the effort last fall in response to President Donald Trump's surprise electoral victory.
"The biggest obstacle to Calexit is having a professional grass roots administration," Evans said in an email to the Los Angeles Times.
Though the effort was suspended Monday, supporters say it's not dead.
Marinelli lives in Russia and organizers said they want to relaunch the crusade at a later time -- perhaps next spring -- with new affiliations and less possibility that it could be perceived as having ties to the Kremlin. Evans said several potential sponsors had withdrawn from the campaign due to concerns with the Russian connection.
Evans said he plans to join another group, California Freedom Coalition, to continue his push for secession. The group hopes to file a new proposal by May 1.
In order to get the issue on the ballot next year, Evans and Marinelli need to collect 585,407 votes by July 25. State officials in January approved their effort to seek those signatures.
If proponents resume the effort and get the issue on the ballot, and voters back it, a special election would be held in March 2019 to ask Californians to approve or reject seceding from the United States. Even if that passed, though, it's unclear whether that would be able to turn the state into a self-governing country.
Constitutional experts are divided on whether states can break away from Washington, D.C., rule -- and if they can, how that would be achieved. The U.S. Constitution only lays out the process for joining the country. There have been dozens of prior and unsuccessful attempts by various factions to secede California from the United States.
Trump lost California's 55 electoral votes in the November 8 presidential election by more than 4 million ballots. For more than two decades, the state has been one of the most Democrat-friendly in the United States. California hasn't given its electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988 -- which was its sixth straight election voting "red."
"The truth is Calexit, like any campaign, is entirely possible with the right amount of public support," Marinelli's email stated. "With the right amount of public support, anything can be accomplished regardless of legal or constitutional barriers."