Affirmative Action Rejected

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Affirmative Action to be denied in Washington State’s November 2019 Elections, reinstating Initiative 200.

During the Washington State elections on November 5, citizens voted against Referendum 88 and the restoration of Affirmative Action – a policy favoring individuals belonging to previously discriminated groups within America. This practice would have allowed for colleges, universities, and businesses to increase opportunities for minority groups by giving them further support.

Previously in April 2019, Washington State legislatures passed Initiative 1000, repealing the ban on Affirmative Action which had been placed 20 years ago. This ban was originally passed by Washington voters in 1998 via I-200; however, recent elections have since reinstated this ban by the people. With its rejection, this leaves the state facing a number of concerns from both sides of the vote.

For Washington State government officials such as April Sims, co-chair of Washington Fairness, Affirmative Action being rejected is disheartening. As reported by NBC News, Sims states how Affirmative Action would have been a great way to level the playing fields for everyone in Washington State. Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington State, also saw Referendum 88 as a way to address what he referred to as systemic inequalities.

Despite this, not everyone in Washington saw Affirmative Action as a solution to inequality. Shortly after the passing of I-1000, a petition was led by Washington Asians for Equality. This petition was created as an attempt to keep Affirmative Action banned in Washington State by giving the vote back to the people.

“I-1000 can be summed up in one sentence: It would abolish the standard of equality for all, regardless of race, as required by I-200, and replace it with a system that uses different rules for people of different races,” states the petition. As such, petitioners felt that this vote should be in the hands of the people.

Those sharing this sentiment see Affirmative Action and Referendum 88 as an attack on equality in Washington State. However, while some feel as though I-200 allows for true equality, certain statistics state otherwise.

According to the Stranger, many legislatures within Washington viewed I-200 as a step backwards for the state when it comes to providing underrepresented groups positions in business. With both women and minorities having less than 4% of the state’s contracting dollars post I-200, this has left Washington state below its established goals.

Javier Valdez, a Seattle representative, believes that I-1000 would have been a fix to I-200. “I-200 was sold 20 years ago as something that would be fair to everyone, and that’s clearly not the case,” he said.

While both sides hold claims still in search of a proper solution, it’s not difficult to see what demographics tend to dominate college campuses, Pierce College included. But whether or not something like Affirmative Action could help with this, or if this is even a problem that needs help, is a question for another time.