The Corner

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Against Preferences, 2008


The Chronicle of Higher Education has a long and very interesting article out today on the upcoming election battle over preferences (subscription required.). Here are some excerpts.

The prominent affirmative-action critic Ward Connerly appears well on his way to getting up to five states to vote in November 2008 on ballot measures banning the use of racial, ethnic, and gender preferences by public colleges and other state and local agencies.

And, according to political analysts who monitor the states that are the targets of Mr. Connerly’s planned “Super Tuesday” on affirmative action—Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma—he stands a very good chance of getting measures passed in all of them….

The only state among them that is not known for social conservatism is Colorado, where conservatives nonetheless account for a large enough share of the ideologically polarized electorate to have scored some key ballot victories in recent decades, passing term-limit and tax-limitation measures….

The three states that have already passed such bans, California, Michigan, and Washington, together account for about 17.7 percent of the nation’s population. If the five states being eyed by Mr. Connerly pass such measures, the share of the U.S. population living in states with such bans will rise to just over 25 percent.

Add Florida—where the former Republican governor, Jeb Bush, curtailed affirmative-action preferences in state government through a 1999 executive order and subsequently persuaded the governing board of the state’s universities to follow suit—and the share of Americans living where public colleges cannot consider applicants’ race now stands at about 23.7 percent and could rise to just over 31 percent as a result of the 2008 vote….

Currently, Hispanic people who are illegal immigrants are not officially counted as part of [Arizona’s] available work force. Mr. Connerly is predicting, however, that that will change if the federal government grants such people amnesty, with one result being that employers and institutions will come under pressure to give extra consideration to Hispanic applicants to better reflect upwardly revised Hispanic work-force numbers….

Because Denver will be the host city for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the presence of such a measure on the ballot in Colorado could give the affirmative-action issue a higher profile in the presidential campaigns. Mr. Connerly says he expects some Republican candidates to speak out in favor of such measures in the primaries, but he predicts that in the general election, neither party will be eager to grapple with the politically fraught issue of affirmative action.