Supporters of an initiative to bring back affirmative action in Washington arrived in Olympia Monday afternoon after a four-day, 54-mile march that kicked off on April 19 in south Seattle.
Dozens gathered at Rainier Beach High School that Friday evening, getting signed in and preparing for the long walk ahead. The event, organized by the One Washington Equality Campaign, was meant to promote Initiative 1000, legislation that would allow the government to consider gender, race, disability and veteran status when making hiring, contracting or admission decisions.
The measure would undo Initiative 200, a 1998 measure promoted by anti-tax evangelist and alleged chair thief Tim Eyman that prohibited government from granting preferential treatment based on “race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin” regarding employment, education or public contracting.
It would also create a Governor’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which would be responsible for monitoring various state agencies’ compliance with the law.
The initiative is currently under review by the state Legislature. If lawmakers don’t act, it will go to the voters in November.
I-200 was approved by more than 58 percent of Washington voters when it went on the ballot in November 1998, but the campaign believes that the politics have shifted in their favor. An Elway Research poll found that roughly 65 percent of registered Washington voters supported affirmative action.
That’s a reversal from 1998, when Elway reported that 69 percent of Washington voters opposed the policy.
Washington is one of eight states in the union without an affirmative action law on the books, alongside California, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Florida. The policy has real economic costs: According to the Office of Women and Minority Business Enterprises, state agencies used to spend roughly 10 percent of their public contracting money with businesses owned by women or minorities.
In the 20 years since I-200 passed, that number has fallen to 3 percent.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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