California seal
The seal of the State of California is displayed on the front of a California State building in San Francisco, California, November 22, 2016. Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

The prospect of California seceding from the Union took a step closer Thursday after supporters of the campaign were cleared to begin collecting signatures to get the so-called “Calexit” initiative on the ballot in 2018. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla made the announcement that the hundreds of thousands of signatures required could now be collected.

If the campaign is successful in obtaining the at least 585,407 valid voter signatures required by July 25 then the measure will go on the ballot in 2018. Were a majority of voters to vote in favor, it would remove clauses from the California Constitution stating that the state is “an inseparable part of the United States of America, and the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land.”

If it passes then a statewide special election, similar to the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, would be held in March 2019 asking voters if they want California to become an independent country. Fifty-five percent of voters would need to cast their vote in favor for California to declare its independence.

The idea of California seceding has long been debated. The state currently has the sixth largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $2.4 trillion in 2015 putting it behind only the U.S., China, Japan, Germany and the UK.

“California loses [by] being a part of America culturally and financially," Marcus Ruiz Evans, one of the Calexit group's founders, told the Los Angeles Times. "It could be a nation all its own, everybody knows that. The only question is if they want to break off."

Renewed calls for independence have been made since Donald Trump’s election as president in November.

“In our view, the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values,” reads a line on the front page of the “Yes California” website.

However, there is still a long road to go before Calexit becomes a reality. The number of Californians supporting independence has increased sharply, up to 32 percent as indicated by a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released this week. But that figure still some way short of the majority required.

And even if Californians approve the initiative, it would likely require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would need the approval of three-quarters of states. Evans, however, said that final hurdle would not be a problem.

“America already hates California, and America votes on emotions," he said. "I think we'd have the votes today if we held it."