The political battle over affirmative action, racial preferences and quotas enters a new phase in Washington.
Organizers of Referendum-88 will begin a signature gathering drive to force a statewide vote on I-1000, which was just approved by the Washington Legislature at the end of the session in April. R-88 has until July 27th to submit 130,000 valid signatures from registered Washington voters.
I-1000 reverses a voter approved Initiative-200 from 1998. I-1000 was submitted to the Washington Legislature earlier this year after a statewide signature gathering petition campaign succeeded. The Democratic controlled Legislature had two options with I-1000: approve it or submit it for a statewide vote in a general election. The Senate and House of Representatives both voted to pass it and avoid a statewide vote. It did not require a signature by the governor.
I-200 barred racial preferences or affirmative action in public employment, education and contracting. I-200 prevailed in 1998 with Washington voters by almost 16 percentage points.
In Washington politics, initiative numbers and political issues can blur together and become confusing. The initiative and referendum process allows one measure to repeal another.
If R-88 organizers collect enough valid signatures, it will trigger a statewide vote on the November 5, 2019 general election ballot to decide if I-1000 stays or if I-200 prevails again.
R-88 organizer, Linda Yang, with the group Washington Asians for Equality spoke to KVI's David Boze saying, "I-1000 abolished a law we have in this state which is you know equal opportunity for all and they replaced that with different rules for people of different races. That's just wrong."
She used an example on the education side of the issue, telling KVI, "Northshore School District recently, we just got (information) in their highly capable program. I saw this information, there's an Indian kid, there's a Caucasian kid, they scored high in their gifted test and they were not, you know, got (sic) in to those programs. So you have kids with a score like 97 percentile...didn't get in to the program while you have a student who scored 91% got in to the program. So the school district (had to) admit they had different criteria for different students. They wouldn't reveal it." She says they had to file a public records request to find out about the discrepancies based on test scores. A week later she says the district announced they were expanding the enrollment to that highly capable program.
I-1000 also creates the Governor's Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. According to the website Ballotpedia the Commission "is responsible for ensuring compliance with the measure, and is required to issue an annual report on the progress of state agencies in achieving the measure's goal"of "guaranteeing every resident of Washington state equal opportunity and access to public education, public employment."
Yang says, "the governor can appoint you to this committee and this committee is going to over see the whole implementation of I-1000. The governor has the ultimate power to decide who gets the government contract, who get you hired, and who get you into the college so that's a very dangerous step in the... territory we're going into."
To hear the full KVI interview with Yang and Boze, click the image above.