Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another election year, another round of state ballot initiatives to ban affirmative action

A measure that would ban state affirmative action programs in Arizona will be on the state's ballot in November 2010. On June 22, 2009, the Arizona Senate, in a 17-11 vote, approved the measure (H. Con. Res. 2019), which had been approved by the House on June 18 in a 32-18 vote. The proposal does not require the governor's signature to be on the ballot. While five other states have launched similar ballot initiatives through signature-gathering campaigns, Arizona is the first state to put such a measure on the ballot via legislative action.

California businessman Ward Connerly, founder and president of the American Civil Rights Institute, testified on June 10, 2009, before an Arizona House committee in favor of the putting the initiative on the ballot. A similar anti-affirmative action measure, also spearheaded by Connerly, was proposed but did not qualify to be on the ballot in Arizona for the November 2008 election because supporters of the measure failed to gather the minimum number of signatures required.

The measure would amend Arizona’s constitution to prohibit state universities, the state, and all other state entities (including cities, towns and counties) from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin "in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." The measure allows exceptions to the prohibition when "bona fide qualifications based on sex" are "reasonably necessary" or when necessary to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal funding. In addition, it exempts court orders or consent decrees in force when the measure becomes effective.

Utah may not be far behind. Currently, a similar ballot measure is pending in the Utah House (H.J.R. 24). If passed in both houses and signed by Governor Gary Herbert, it could appear on the ballot as soon as November 2010. According to a February 12, 2010, article in the Desert News, Connerly helped the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Curtis Oda (R-Clearfield) present the proposal.

The 2010 Arizona ballot initiative is similar to initiatives that have been passed in California (1996), Washington state (1998), Michigan (2006) and Nebraska (2008). However, Colorado became the first state to reject, by an extremely narrow margin (50.7% to 49.2%), an anti-affirmative action ballot measure in the November 2008 election.

Similar anti-affirmative action measures were proposed, but did not qualify, to be on the November 4, 2008, ballot in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arizona because supporters of those measures failed to get enough valid signatures by the respective deadlines. In April 2008, supporters of the measure in Oklahoma filed a motion to withdraw their proposal from consideration due to their failure to get the required 138,970 valid signatures. The Oklahoma secretary of state's office counted 141,184 signatures on the petition but found a large number of duplicates. Supporters of the Missouri ballot initiative failed to turn in signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State by the required May 4, 2008, deadline. (Last month, a group affiliated with Connerly in Missouri filed to withdraw a similar proposed initiative for the 2010 ballot rather than face an ACLU lawsuit challenging the language of the initiative as unconstitutional and unfair and misleading in violation of Missouri law). In 2008, proponents of the measure in Arizona failed to gather the 230,047 minimum number of signatures required. According to an August 21, 2008, statement issued by then Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer, supporters "initially turned in 334,735 petition signatures of which 9,148 were deemed invalid after the verification and processing of petitions by the Secretary of State's office and county recorders. A random sample of five percent of signatures was then processed by the county recorders to verify voter registration and petition signatures. That process ultimately removed another 6,532 signatures as being invalid."

All of these ballots measures were spearheaded by Connerly, who knows from experience that once such measures get on state ballots, their chances of succeeding are high. It seems Connerly and his allies have found going directly to state legislatures is a more effective way, compared to signature gathering, to get these measures before voters.

1 comment:

  1. In Utah tomorrow is the crucial day. We can only amend our State Constitution through the legislature and by statute the legislative session ends tomorrow by midnight. We never saw it coming. The amendment had language and was in committee before any community leaders knew what was going on. The bottom line is, if it gets the votes in our House, it will sail through the Senate and the Governors desk and then will be on our ballot in November. Our saving grace is the hold out Republicans think that the process was undemocratic and have refused to play along.

    The Caucasian population in Utah is estimated at 87.6% followed by Hispanic at 12.0%, Asian at 2.7%, American Indian and Alaska Native at 1.8%, Black at 1.7%, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander at 1.1% (Percentages total >100% due to multi-racial/ethnic Utahans). Utahans don‘t really have an understanding of Social Justice because of their homogeneous society so if this made it to a ballot we would need to teach the whole state the benefits of diversity in the space of nine months.

    Currently Salt Lake City is trying to be the Convention site for the Republican National Convention 2010. If our constitution is amended, keep Delegates who don’t look like White Men at home.