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Initiative to split California into three parts removed from ballot by state's Supreme Court

Proponents of the proposition have said that splitting the state into three would lead to better federal representation from lawmakers.

The California Supreme Court has ordered that a controversial proposition aimed at splitting the state into three be removed from the November ballot.

The court said in an en banc decision Wednesday that "significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition's validity" and that "the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.”

Proposition 9, which if approved by voters would have directed the governor to seek Congressional approval to divide California in three states, qualified for the November ballot in June.

Hikers pass by the Hollywood sign in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 19, 2017.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

It was backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Timothy Draper, who'd spent more than $1.7 million supporting the initiative, the Associated Press reported. An email seeking comment from Citizens for Cal 3, which backs the initiative, was not immediately returned.

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State's Office said Proposition 9 was removed from the Nov. 6 ballot in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Supreme Court will now consider the merits of a challenge brought by the Planning and Conservation League. The environmental group has argued that dividing the nation's most populous state in three would drastically change California's government structure beyond what can be accomplished through a ballot initiative.

Carlyle Hall, lead attorney in the case brought by the PCL, said that the arguments for taking Prop 9 off the ballot were "overwhelming."

"The voters through the initiative process have the power to pass statutes and constitutional amendments, but they don’t have the power to revise the Constitution or abolish it, nullify it," Hall told NBC News on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court set a date for further arguments for August, and a future decision could mean that future efforts to try and break up the state can’t be done through a ballot initiative, he said. "We look forward to that, because we think we will definitely win," Hall said.

Had the proposition been on the ballot and approved by voters, it faced the hurdle of requiring approval from the U.S. Congress.

Proponents of the proposition have said that splitting the state into three would lead to better representation from lawmakers and better results on issues like education, infrastructure and taxes.

Draper was also been behind past efforts to try and get an issue to split California into as many as six states. A previous effort did not have enough valid signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot, and it never went before voters.

According to language in the most recent try, "Northern California" would have encompassed the Bay Area up to the Oregon border; the new "California" would stretch from Monterey County down along the coast and including Los Angeles County; and "Southern California" would include San Diego, parts of the Inland Empire, Fresno County and some other central counties.

A SurveyUSA Poll conducted for news organizations that was released in April found that 72 percent of those polled would vote against dividing the state into three. Only 17 percent said they would vote yes.