Washington State Voters Reject Referendum That Would Have Reinstated Affirmative Action

In 1998, voters in Washington passed Initiative 200 by a wide margin. This initiative prohibited state-operated colleges and universities from considering race in admission decisions.

This year, the legislature placed an initiative on the ballot asking the state’s voters to approve a referendum that would allow public colleges and universities once again to consider race in admissions decisions. Voters were presented with a choice to “allow the state to remedy discrimination for certain groups and to implement affirmative action, without the use of quotas or preferential treatment (as defined), in public education, employment, and contracting.”

The summary of the measure that appeared on the ballot states that “this measure would allow the state to remedy documented or proven discrimination against, or underrepresentation of, certain disadvantaged groups. It would allow the state to implement affirmative action in public education, employment, and contracting if the action does not use quotas or preferential treatment.”

But on Tuesday, November 5, voters in the state of Washington rejected the measure by a slim margin. Voters in rural areas of the state rejected the effort to reinstate race-sensitive admissions by a large margin. The measure won a majority of the votes in just three counties in the state.

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