After successfully backing Proposal 2, a ballot initiative passed in November that banned affirmative action in Michigan, the American Civil Rights Institute is gearing up to place similar measures before voters in Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado in 2008.
Twenty-three states have a ballot initiative process that allows voters to decide on proposals that gain enough signatures to be placed on the ballot. So far, California, Washington and Michigan have passed similar ballot proposals backed by the group led by Ward Connerly, a former member of the University of California Board of Regents.
Connerly said he considers affirmative action a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act bans discrimination based on ethnicity, race and gender.
“It is not being obeyed by colleges or public agencies,” Connerly said. “We’re trying to get that back on track.”
The group is targeting five states of the remaining 20 that should easily pass the legislation, Connerly said.
“We feel we will do extremely well in all those states,” he said. “We wouldn’t have chosen the states if we thought we would lose.”
Connerly said he doesn’t think the initiatives will face as much opposition as Proposal 2 did in Michigan. He was particularly critical of By Any Means Necessary, a radical group aimed at preserving affirmative action. He said the media gave the group more attention than it deserved.
“We want to avoid another effort like Michigan,” Connerly said.
Michigan’s Proposal 2 passed 58 percent to 42 percent.
In Colorado and Oklahoma, the ACRI is already busy gathering signatures, but the ACRI has struggled to craft its proposal for Missouri, arguing with the Missouri Secretary of State over the wording that will appear on the ballot. The secretary and group must reach a consensus before it can begin collecting signatures.
Connerly said the group is discussing language for proposals in Nebraska and Arizona.
Although he said he hadn’t heard of ACRI’s campaign yet, Brice McCoy, president of the University of Arizona College Republicans, said he thinks most students at the university disagree with affirmative action.
“They always have it in the paper, the president wanting to recruit more Latino students. People get ticked off at that,” McCoy said. “The university puts a lot of money into recruiting minorities.”
Nate Kennedy, president of the College Democrats of Missouri and former chair of the University of Missouri at Columbia’s chapter of the College Democrats, said an affirmative action ban hasn’t yet gained political momentum in the state.
He said he didn’t know about the proposal, even though he considers himself attuned to Missouri politics.
“It hasn’t been a prominent issue in Missouri politics in the last couple of years,” Kennedy said.
“As we get closer to elections, we’ll see what happens.”
Durrell Hodge, president of the University of Oklahoma’s student chapter of the NAACP, said his group has taken an official stance against the initiative but hasn’t yet decided what to do about it.
Hodge said he is concerned that people would sign a petition to put the initiative on the ballot and then vote for it without understanding what the measure’s effects.
“We need to be on the lookout,” Hodge said. “Their tactics are to get people to sign the petition by putting signs on it saying it stops discriminatory practices.”
Hodge said his group doesn’t expect to keep the initiative off of the ballot because the petition will likely garner the 138,900 signatures necessary.
Oklahoma is traditionally a largely conservative state. Almost two-thirds of voters picked President Bush in the 2004 presidential election. The state has two Republican senators and all but one of the state’s representatives are Republicans.
“We’re 100 percent sure they’ll get it on the ballot,” Hodge said. “We’re working more toward voter education because we know we’re going to have to vote on it.”
Click here to view map as seen in print.