California voters reject ballot measure to restore affirmative action
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California voters reject ballot measure to restore affirmative action

Unofficial totals following Tuesday’s election indicate that California voters have rejected a statewide ballot measure that would have amended the California Constitution to allow the state to reinstate affirmative action programs.

Proposition 16, titled “Allow Diversity as a Factor in Public Employment, Education, and Contracting Decisions,” would have permitted government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to address diversity. If passed, the ballot measure would have repealed Proposition 209, which passed in 1996, from the California Constitution.

Proposition 209, the “Affirmative Action Initiative,” made affirmative action illegal in California when it was added to the California Consitution’s Declaration of Rights. It barred discrimination or preferential treatment involving race-based or sex-based preferences in California. Proposition 209 passed with 55% of the vote.

By eliminating the highly-controversial Proposition 209, Proposition 16 sought to allow the state government, local governments, public universities, and other political subdivisions to develop and use affirmative action programs to grant preference based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin as permitted by federal law. Notable individuals and organizations supported the ballton measure, including several labor unions, the University of California Board of Regents, the Anti-Defamation League, Facebook, and Wells Fargo.

Chiefly against Proposition 16 was Ward Connerly, former chairperson of the campaign behind Proposition 209. After passing Proposition 209 in 1996, Connerly founded the American Civil Rights Institute, which supported ballot measures modeled after Proposition 209 in Washington, Michigan, Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona, and Oklahoma.

With the failure of Proposition 16, California will maintain its ban on using affirmative action in hiring and admissions decisions.