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Affirmative action ban heads for ballot in 5 states

  • Story Highlights
  • Initiative pushed in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma
  • It would ban affirmative action in government-funded projects, public schools
  • Initiative has already passed in California, Michigan and Washington
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From Lindy Royce
CNN Washington Bureau
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(CNN) -- Come election time in November, voters in five states might have a decision to make as big as whom to elect president.

Ballot initiatives have been proposed in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma that would give voters the chance to decide whether they want to do away with affirmative action in government-funded projects and public schools.

Ward Connerly, who heads the American Civil Rights Coalition -- a nonprofit organization working to end racial and gender preferences -- and the main backer of the ballot initiatives, says the 37 word initiative would read: "The state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting."

"It would forbid any state or local agency or special district from engaging in preferential treatment," Connerly said.Video Watch what Connerly says about the initiative »

Connerly, who is of African-American and American Indian descent, said affirmative action causes resentment. He criticized cases in which a Caucasian student might be denied a college slot in favor of a black student with a lower grade-point average.

"It's foolish not to think that the kid who is turned away is not going to ... resent that," Connerly said.

Connerly, who grew up in Leesville, Louisiana, said he experienced oppression because of his skin color during his youth.

"If it was wrong when I was born in '39 ... it's wrong now," he said. "If it was wrong to do it against a brown-skinned man, it's wrong to do it against a white man."

Shanta Driver, National Director of United for Equality and Affirmative Action Legal Defense Fund -- an organization dedicated to integrating minority students in educational institutions -- said the ballot initiative is a mistake.

"It places us in the position of denying ... equal opportunity to blacks and Latinos," she said.Video Watch Driver explain her position on the initiative »

Driver and other affirmative action supporters believe this movement would erase the progress made since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"It's obviously a huge step backwards," she said.

The ballot initiative, dubbed the Civil Rights Initiative, has already passed in California, Michigan and Washington.

Some 140,000 signed petitions have been submitted in Oklahoma. Backers in the remaining four states have until late March to early July to collect enough signatures for the initiative to be on the November ballot.

If successful, the ballot measures would cut off tax dollars for programs offering preferential treatment based on gender or race.


The issue may have some support in the Supreme Court.

In June, justices threw out public school choice plans that relied on race. That leaves many states uncertain about whether their affirmative action policies will stand up in court and against political scrutiny in this election year. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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