Arizona Lawmakers Agree to Put on Ballot a Proposed Ban on Affirmative-Action Preferences

June 22, 2009

Arizona is set to become the first state in which a proposed ban on affirmative-action preferences will be put on the ballot by the legislature, rather than through petitions submitted by voters.

The Arizona Senate today passed a measure — approved by the state’s House of Representatives a week ago — calling for a proposed ban on the use of affirmative-action preferences by public colleges and other state agencies, to go before voters next year. Under the state’s Constitution, referenda approved by the Arizona Legislature go on the ballot without the governor’s approval.

The campaign on behalf of the measure had tried to place it on the Arizona ballot last November, but failed to gather enough petition signatures. Similar measures appeared on ballots last year in Colorado and Nebraska, with the Colorado measure losing narrowly and the Nebraska measure passing with 58 percent of the vote. Such measures also were passed in California in 1996, Washington State in 1998, and Michigan in 2006.

The Arizona referendum calls for the state Constitution to be amended to ban public colleges and other state and local agencies from granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in employment, contracting, and education-related decisions. —Peter Schmidt