Affirmative Action was on the ballot this Election Day in the state of California. The measure, Proposition 16, proposed to repeal a constitutional provision that outlawed California’s government to discriminate against — or offer preferential treatment to — people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, or sex. Affirmative Action — or the preferential treatment of college applicants in the admissions process based on their race — was thus stirred into the sauce of the proposition. So what did California’s voters decide? Did they choose to reinstate Affirmative Action at California’s universities or not? The answer? Voters flatly rejected the measure.
As Phil Willon reports for The Los Angeles Times in a piece entitled “Why affirmative action measure failed in California,” “The measure faced an uphill challenge from the outset, hobbled by a truncated campaign that began after the California Legislature added Proposition 16 to the ballot in June and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, which made door-to-door campaigning and other grass-roots voter outreach difficult…University of California officials expressed disappointment Wednesday that voters rejected Proposition 16 but vowed to continue expanding the student body’s cultural, racial, geographic and socioeconomic diversity. ‘UC remains steadfast in its commitment to attract and support a student body that reflects California’s dynamism and diversity, despite this setback,’ UC President Michael V. Drake said in statement. ‘We will continue our unwavering efforts to expand underrepresented groups’ access to a UC education.'”
The failure of California’s Proposition 16 is surely a blow to champions of Affirmative Action in the nation’s most populous state, a practice we happen to believe remains important to creating a nation grounded in the principle of equal opportunity. As a result of its failure on the ballot, California’s universities will have no choice but to continue to not offer preferential treatment based on race in the admissions process. But we have a feeling this battle isn’t over just yet.
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