How Colorado Became the First State to Reject a Ban on Affirmative Action

November 11, 2008

colorado-voters-affirmative-action.jpgColorado voters became the first in the nation to reject a ban on state affirmative action programs, narrowly defeating a measure that California businessman Ward Connerly has helped pass in four other states.

But with so many factors in play this historic election, it’s not
clear whether Colorado’s vote is a turning point for such measures or
an anomaly.

“More than anything else,
more than anything, it was the tendency to just vote no,” Connerly
said, blaming a complicated state ballot and the groundswell of support
for Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president-elect.

51 percent to 49 percent, Coloradans rejected a proposed constitutional
ban on considering race or gender in state hiring, contracting and college admissions.
The Election Night tally showed voters about evenly divided, and The
Associated Press didn’t declare a winner until Friday, when more votes
had been counted.

In neighboring
Nebraska, 58 percent of voters approved an affirmative action ban this
week. Despite a legal challenge by opponents there, Nebraska college
and municipal officials are already examining their programs to see if
they violate the new ban.

Initially, it
looked as though Colorado would follow the lead of California, Michigan
and Washington in banning affirmative action. Polls showed the measure
had support among Republicans and Democrats and men and women.

was one of 14 measures Colorado voters faced on the nation’s longest
ballot. Voters rejected most of them, including a proposal that could
have led to shorter ballots.

said the affirmative action proposal — with language focused on ending
discrimination and without a mention of affirmative action — was
deceptive, and they launched a door-to-door campaign telling voters
that it could end such programs as science camps for girls.

Connerly as a “carpetbagger,” they ran radio ads in English and Spanish
against the amendment with contributions from software entrepreneur Tim
Gill and from Jared Polis, an Internet businessman who was elected a Democratic congressman Tuesday.

Gov. Bill Ritter, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and three Division I basketball coaches also spoke out against it.

“We’ve done something everybody was telling us was impossible,” said Melissa Hart, a University of Colorado law professor who led the opposition.

Connerly originally envisioned a “Super Tuesday
for Equal Rights” this year featuring proposed bans in five states. In
the future, he said, he’ll try to back campaigns in just two states at
a time, and he didn’t rule out another try in Colorado.

Mark Long, an assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Washington who has tracked the state bans, thinks the big show of support for Barack Obama in Colorado helped tilt the state against the ban.

Long said other states could still pass bans, and he expects more lawsuits challenging the use of race as a factor in college admissions, which the U.S. Supreme Court has already limited.

Connerly points to Obama’s election as proof it’s time to end affirmative action.

“I applaud the American people
that they made that judgment, apparently free and unencumbered by any
biases based on his skin color, and the same thing ought to apply to
ordinary people when they apply for a job, bid on a contract or seek
college admissions,” said Connerly, who is black.

Anurima Bhargava, director of education practice at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, disagreed. She said there won’t be equal opportunity for minority students until their schools are improved and high school graduation rates are raised.

“Change is possible and change will hopefully come, but it hasn’t arrived at the election of Barack Obama,” Bhargava said.

The president-elect has criticized Connerly’s ballot measures as
divisive and has said that affirmative action addresses hardships
minorities face. But he also has said such programs should be extended
to low-income whites and should exclude “privileged” minorities, like
his two daughters.

Source: AP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: