Michigan Anti-Affirmative Action Initiative Opposed by Broad Bipartisan Coalition

In the final days leading up to the election, there is an ugly trend of dishonesty running through state ballot initiatives. Deceptively titled initiatives are confusing voters and masking their true nature: "property rights protection" would actually result in a huge burden to tax payers and severly hinder environmental protection and in Michigan you have a "Civil Rights Initiative", Proposition 2, which is anything but a civil rights initiative.

Proposition 2 would constitutionally ban voluntary affirmative action efforts in the public sector, including education, employment, and contracting. The fallout?

  • The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, including dozens of Republican prosecutors, have denounced the measure as a threat to public safety by undermining recruitment of officers and public safety staff that reflect the make-up of the communities they serve.
  • The lack of health care professionals in black and Latino communities would only get worse as fewer minority health professionals get trained.
  • Programs targeted for women, such as state-funded breast and cervical cancer screening and battered women's shelters, could be eliminated.
  • The tuition waiver program for Native Americans, one of the only means of educational opportunity for many Tribal members, would be threatened.

Since all of Michigan's affirmative action programs are voluntary, not court-mandated, the use of a constitutional ban would undermine programs with broad support and further intrude into local community decision-making by not allowing those communities to adopt affirmative action policies under any circumstances, regardless of community will or desire.

Opponents denounce an initiative that would use the state constitution to take away rights to equal opportunity, rather than defend it. Joining labor, social justice, Democractic and environmental groups in opposing the proposition are Republicans, religious groups, businesses, and a slew of others. The coalition against the proposition is as diverse as it is wide, with the ACLU joining with the Michigan Catholic Conference on the steering committee of the main organization opposing the measure.

This bipartisan coalition has denounced the campaign led by Ward Connerly, a businessman who has spearheaded similar measures in other states and whose "American Civil Rights Institute" is funded by millions of dollars from rightwing foundations. Even Dick DeVos, the GOP candidate for governor this year, sees the Michigan initiative as an extreme measure that would distract Michigan "from our goal of bringing hope and opportunity to every person in our state."

Given the misinformation promoted by the anti-affirmative action campaign, the most recent polls show a very tight vote next Tuesday, but we can hope that commitments to opportunity will trump the fears promoted by Connerly and his backers.

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