UPDATE: California voters rejected the ballot initiative Proposition 16, voting to maintain a ban on affirmative action in the state.
To prevent discrimination against people of color in hiring, anyone wanting to contract with the federal government has to abide by affirmative action practices, that ensure equal opportunities for all regardless of their race, sex, or national origin.
But the same isn’t true for all states — including California.
Affirmative action became illegal in California in 1996 under ballot measure Proposition 209, which prohibited discrimination or preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.
Proponents argued the affirmative action ban would bring about greater equality and opportunity — but that didn’t happen. Instead, the number of Black and Latinx students at the state’s schools fell rapidly, and minority-owned businesses found it far more difficult to win government contracts.
Proposition 16 would reverse Proposition 209, meaning California’s state and local governments and public universities would be allowed to establish affirmative action programs that rely on factors like race and sex.
As of Wednesday, November 4, at 10:40 AM ET, Decision Desk has 56.07 percent of reported ballots opposing the measure, with somewhere between 64.75 and 77.73 percent of the estimated vote counted.
The measure’s supporters argue that systemic racism has kept people of color out of certain schools, and away from certain economic opportunities, and that race-based programs will help reverse damage done by color-blind policies. Opponents, however, claim the measure is itself a form of discrimination because the law would not treat everyone equally, but instead give preference to certain groups.
The battle over affirmative action in the state has been expensive; as of late October, proponents and opponents had raised more than $20 million in their efforts to sway voters.
Before the votes began to be counted, the fate of the measure remained an open question. A poll taken in September by the Public Policy of Institute of California found 31 percent of likely voters planned to vote yes, 47 percent planned to vote no, and 22 percent weren't sure.
California Proposition 16
A yes vote would restore affirmative action in California.
A no vote would mean California would continue to not use affirmative action in hiring and admissions.