A California group that championed a successful ballot initiative to strike down affirmative action in higher education in that state wants Michigan voters to consider a similar proposal next year.

Louie Meizlish
Connerly

“This is serious. It’s not a pipe dream,” Ward Connerly, chairman of the Sacramento-based American Civil Rights Coalition, told The Ann Arbor News. “We’re arranging a date to come to Michigan.”

Connerly has planned a noontime press conference for Tuesday, July 8 on the steps of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library.

Michigan’s law calls for initiative petitions to be filed with the secretary of state’s office at least 160 days before an election. Connerly said organizers must get signatures from at least 8 percent of registered voters in Michigan’s last gubernatorial election. The secretary of state’s website says 3.2 million people voted in the gubernatorial election and 8 percent of that would be 256,000.

“Once we generate sufficient organization from people in Michigan for this, we’ll pass the baton to them,” he said.

A Michigan ballot initiative was explored four years ago, but Connerly said the drive was suspended because supporters believed the issue would be resolved in court after two lawsuits challenged race-conscious admissions policies at the University of Michigan’s law school and undergraduate school.

Interest perked again following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 23 ruling that found campus diversity to be a compelling state interest that justifies race considerations when making admissions decisions.

“We were flabbergasted,” Connerly said of the high court’s decisions. “This pushed us over the edge.”

The court upheld the law school’s admissions policy because the policy considered each individual’s application, though it struck down the undergraduate policy because its awarding of points for race on a selection index was “mechanical.”

Constitutional law Prof. Philip Prygoski said passing a ballot initiative would not conflict with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“All the Supreme Court said is that race may be considered as a factor in admissions, not that it must be considered,” said Prygoski, of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing.

Connerly was instrumental in getting a majority of board members at the University of California – where he is a regent – to ban the use of race in the school’s admissions policy in 1995. That year, he also headed the California Civil Rights Initiative – or Proposition 209 – to ban race preferences in public employment, education and contracting.

Washington voters in 1998 passed a similar ballot proposal called Initiative Measure 200, which overturned the race-conscious admissions policies at the University of Washington Law School.

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