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One of the major, nationwide campaigns to end equal opportunity programs is led by Ward Connerly and his conservative backers. Connerly has introduced ballot initiatives in several states that aim to amend the state constitution to eliminate affirmative action. Connerly began in California, where the initiative passed in 1996, and went on to promote initiatives in Washington and Michigan that were also approved by voters.
In 2008, Connerly and his supporters targeted five states: Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Many national advocacy organizations, including the Kirwan Institute, provided support to state organizations that headed campaigns to oppose these initiatives. In Missouri, Connerly’s supporters failed to collect the required number of signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, and in Oklahoma Connerly’s group withdrew their initiative after the ACLU and NAACP filed a legal challenge to their signature count. In Arizona, the Secretary of State disqualified the initiative in late August 2008. Thus, in three of the five states targeted, the initiative failed to even make it onto the ballot. In Colorado and Nebraska, the initiative did make it to Election Day. In Colorado the initiative was defeated for the first time, in a meaningful victory for affirmative action advocates, but in Nebraska the initiative was approved. The Kirwan Institute has issued a report on the 2008 initiative campaign.
These sections provide information about the state of affirmative action and equal opportunity in each state where the Connerly initiative has been introduced, as well as information on the status of equal opportunity programs in several other states where the issue has been prominent.
Though they failed to get their initiative on the ballot through voter signature in 2008, Ward Connerly’s group did succeed in placing the initiative on the 2010 ballot by legislative action. In June 2009, both the Arizona House and Senate voted to place the initiative on the 2010 ballot. The initiative contains the usual wording, and if approved it will eliminate equal opportunity programs for people of color and women throughout the entire state of Arizona.
In Arizona, Connerly’s ACRI (Arizona Civil Rights Initiative) did not succeed in their attempt to place the initiative onto the 2008 ballot through signature petitions. The initiative was decertified by the Arizona Secretary of State in August 2008 because over 40% of the signatures that Connerly’s group filed were invalid. That number did not include the tens of thousands of signatures challenged in a lawsuit filed by Protect Arizona’s Freedom, a coalition that was formed to support affirmative action and oppose Connerly’s initiative.
Arizona Coalition Members
Protect Arizona’s Freedom Coordinator: Kyrsten Sinema
Arizona News and Publications
Voters to Get Final Say on Affirmative Action Programs – Verde News – June 27, 2009
Arizona’s Equal Opportunity Programs Under Threat – civilrights.org – June 26, 2009
Affirmative Action Debate Rages– Arizona Daily Star – June 19, 2009
Arizonans Against Affirmative Action – National Review – June 12, 2009
Group Abandons Lawsuit over Affirmative Action – Deseret News – August 31, 2008
Proposition 104 Backers Prepare for Last Battle - Arizona Daily Sun – August 28, 2008
Initiative on Affirmative Action Off Ballot – azcentral.com – August 21, 2008
Affirmative Action Ban Likely Stripped from Arizona Ballot – The Huffington Post – August 19, 2008
Arizona Democrats Decry McCain Support of Connerly Initiative – PolitickerAZ.com – July 29, 2008
Anti-Connerly Forces Vow to Fight On – PolitickerAZ.com – July 7, 2008
Affirmative Action Ban Makes Ballot – azcentral.com – July 3, 2008
Suit Filed Against Initiative to End Affirmative Action – Arizona Daily Sun – July 1, 2008
Arizona Ground Zero in Anti-Affirmative Action Group’s Fight - The Arizona Republic - May 11, 2008
Civil Rights Measure May Be Adrift - The Arizona Republic - April 20, 2008