Excerpts from today’s Chronicle of Higher Education piece on victory for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (To fight back against Michigan’s defiance, and to spread the initiative to other states, go here):
Michigan’s overwhelming adoption of a ban on the use of affirmative-action preferences by public colleges and other state agencies appears likely to result in months of legal wrangling over the measure’s enforcement there and the emergence of campaigns for similar ballot proposals in other states.
As ballots were counted through Wednesday morning, unofficial election results showed that the proposed ban on preferences, known as Proposal 2, had passed with 58 percent of the vote. It was resoundingly approved despite being up against a much-better-financed opposition campaign that enlisted much of the state’s economic and political establishment, in a year when Democrats made a good enough showing at the polls to win most key elections.
“I am surprised that it passed by the margin that it did, particularly with the strong Democratic turnout we had,” said Michael A. Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council for the State Universities of Michigan, which opposed the measure.
Supporters of the measure were elated. “This obviously was a dramatic victory,” said Ward Connerly, a prominent critic of affirmative action who helped advise the campaign for Proposal 2. Calling Michigan “a very tough state” partly because of its strong Democratic Party, Mr. Connerly said, “if we can win in Michigan, I think we can win anywhere.”
Known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, the measure amends the Constitution of the Great Lakes State to ban public colleges and other state agencies from operating affirmative-action programs that grant preferences based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, or gender.
Similar measures have been adopted by voters in two other states, California, in 1996, and Washington, in 1998. Michigan’s Proposal 2 received significantly more voter support than the California measure did and about as much as the ballot initiative that passed in Washington State, despite being up against opposition that was much better financed and better organized than either of the West Coast campaigns faced.
Opponents of Proposal 2 were disappointed but stuck to their guns. At a on Wednesday, Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, said she had directed the university’s lawyers to give their “full and undivided support in defending diversity,” and vowed to “immediately begin exploring legal action concerning this initiative.”
…Going into Tuesday’s election, Mr. Connerly said that the opposition he encountered in Michigan had been so taxing on him that he personally had no plans to undertake similar campaigns in other states. After the results of Tuesday’s voting came in, however, Mr. Connerly said he was encouraged enough to consider mounting other campaigns “while the iron is hot.” The chief thing stopping him from moving quickly, he said, was the thought that now “the opposition may be more mobilized than if we wait six months and let them stagnate.”