By REBEKAH ZEMANSKY
Cronkite News Service
PHOENIX – Arizona voters have approved a ballot measure to eliminate affirmative action programs in state and local governments.
Unofficial returns showed Proposition 107 leading by a wide margin.
Supporters said the need for affirmative action has long passed and amount to discrimination. They succeeded in amending the state’s constitution to ban state government and municipalities from giving preferential treatment on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity or national origin.
Four other states have passed similar measures. They are California, Nebraska, Washington and Michigan.
Jennifer Gratz, spokesperson for “Yes on 107,” said the apparent victory in Arizona is the largest yet.
“It’s the biggest victory that the initiative has had,” Graz said. “I think that with the margin we saw here it’s clear that the people of Arizona believe in fair and equal treatment for everyone.”
The measure also covers school districts and the public universities, although programs that would lose federal grant money by complying with a ban aren’t included.
Opponents said public university students, in particular, would suffer under Proposition 107 because many benefit from affirmative action programs.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said she worries about the survival of programs such as Arizona State University’s Hispanic Mother-Daughter program, which works with Latina teens to prepare them for college.
“The way that [Proposition 107] was wrapped was very deceptive, and it appeared to voters as if it was an issue to protect civil rights,” Sinema said. “In reality, of course, it only jeopardizes funding for equal opportunity programs.”
She said it’s too early to predict if Arizona opponents of the measure will challenge it in court.
Gratz said she’s confident Proposition 107 will hold up legally.
“We’ve seen challenges of just about every nature you can see, and we’ve won every time so a challenge by our opponents would not be the prudent thing to do,” she said.