A campaign is underway to ban affirmative action in five states already embroiled in debates over illegal immigration.
Efforts are proceeding in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma to put initiatives on November ballots that would end programs to increase minority and female participation in government and education.
The push is led by Ward Connerly, a California management consultant who successfully ran similar campaigns in California, Washington and Michigan.
It is part of Connerly's effort to ban race- and gender-based policies nationwide.
The initiatives will add to the racially charged atmosphere in state elections, says Michael Kanner, a political science professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. All five states have had big increases in their Hispanic population since 2000, leading to racial tensions and debates over illegal immigration.
Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma have passed the nation's toughest laws against illegal immigration. Among their provisions, they penalize employers of undocumented workers. In Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt is pushing for tougher immigration laws and enforcement. In Nebraska, towns with large food processing companies that employ Hispanic immigrants have been targeted by federal immigration raids.
"It's about race in both issues," Kanner says. "Affirmative action, by its nature, is associated with minorities. In Colorado, for example, the dominant minorities are Hispanic, so it is inevitable that the two will be tied together."
Connerly, founder of the American Civil Rights Institute, a group working to end affirmative action, says, "We will deliberately try to stay away from the issue of illegal immigration. It's a tangential issue that we cannot control."
He says, "It's a simple principle we are promoting: equal treatment for all Americans."
Connerly says he believes in affirmative action if it is based on socioeconomic conditions, not gender or race.
His campaign is in its first stage in Colorado, Arizona and Nebraska, gathering signatures to qualify to be on the ballot.
It has turned in signatures in Oklahoma, but is stalled in Missouri in a court dispute over language. Connerly's language says the state shall not discriminate or grant preferences based on race, sex or ethnicity. The language substituted by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan goes further and says the initiative would end programs that provide equal opportunities for women and minorities.
19 hours ago