Michigan voters approved a state-wide ban on affirmative action in public education, public employment, and state contracts on Tuesday. The referendum was opposed by many prominent leaders in the political, business, and academic worlds, including both major gubernatorial candidates, Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) – who was reelected on Tuesday – and Dick DeVos (R). Detroit and the surrounding metro area also showed strong opposition to the referendum, as evidenced by the ubiquitous “No on 2” signs. Roughly 58 percent of voters across the state, however, came out in favor of the ban. Proposition Two garnered the most support from men and white voters, with 60 percent and 59 percent voting to approve it, respectively. Only 47 percent of women and 14 percent of black voters cast a “yes” ballot for the proposition, according to exit polls, Inside Higher Ed reports.
The ban has been controversial from the beginning. Ward Connerly, an African-American businessman, pushed through a similar ban on affirmative action in California during the 1996 election. He created an anti-affirmative action organization with the same name as the bill on Michigan’s ballot – the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative – with Jennifer Gratz. Gratz filed suit against the University of Michigan Law School in 2003 when she was reportedly denied admission.
In order to put Proposition Two on the ballot, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) paid workers two dollars for every signature they obtained. According to Kate Nielson, a campus organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation who spent much of the past two months working in the field, the MCRI used other deceptive means to get the referendum on the ballot. One black, female Wayne State University student working for the MCRI to collect signatures was told that the referendum was to cut taxes.
The consequences of the approval of Proposition Two will be far reaching in Michigan and beyond. Changes are set to start as early as December 22, but legal challenges are expected. The passage of Proposition Two will not only affect Michigan citizens; with his success in Michigan, Connerly is expected to take the same ban to other states. Ohio is the next suspected target. Opponents of these bans plan to mobilize their base early in an attempt to keep similar referenda off of future ballots.