Michigan Proposition is Ward Connerly’s Latest Assault on Affirmative Action

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Michigan’s Proposition 2 (a dead ringer for California’s Proposition 209 which passed in 1996) is in a tight spot in the polls with only a week to go.

The proposition would ban any affirmative action programs that “give preferential treatment to individuals or groups based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” Also known as the “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative” the proposition’s campaign is funded by Ward Connerly, the same man responsible for the California proposal and is headed by Jennifer Gratz
plaintiff in the 2003 University of Michigan Supreme Court case, which upheld the school’s use of race as a factor in admissions while also outlawing their formal points system in making such decisions.

Conservative students on the Michigan campus have been actively supporting the measure while the National Bar Association, the UAW, the ACLU and both the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates oppose it.

Connerly, who is African American, has spent $500,000 on the Michigan campaign, and has been on a zealous crusade to end affirmative action programs for more than a decade. As he told the New York Times, “When my toes turn up, that’s when I’ll stop fighting this.”

Poll numbers suggest many in Michigan haven’t made up their minds yet. An October 18 Detroit Free Press poll showed 41% in favor, 44% opposed and 15% undecided.

Should the measure pass California could be a window into the future, where numbers of Latino and African students in the state’s University of California system have dropped significantly since 1997 (the year after Prop 209 passed). At UC Berkeley this year only 3% of the entering freshman class was African American and at UCLA the number was 2%, the lowest in 30 years.

—Amaya Rivera

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