Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (2008)

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The Missouri Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Missouri Ballot Measure 009, was proposed as an initiative for the November 2008 general election ballot in Missouri. Proponents of the measure failed to submit sufficient signatures by the deadline, so it did not appear on the November ballot.[1]

Proponent Ward Connerly says he won't be giving up on the initiative and will try again for the 2010 ballot.

If enacted, it would have added a new constitutional amendment to the Missouri Constitution, prohibiting the state from discriminating on the basis of race. Opponents described the measure as anti-affirmative action, and supporters describe it as banning racial preferences.[2]

The initiative has already been passed in Michigan, California, and Washington state.


Text of proposed amendment

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prohibit any form of discrimination as an act of the state by declaring:

  • The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting?


Fiscal Impact

The I&R regulations in Missouri require the Missouri Secretary of State to release a fiscal statement about each proposed ballot initiative prior to circulation of the petition, estimating how much money the measure would cost the State of Missouri, if enacted. The fiscal statement for this initiative reads:[3]

The total cost or savings to state and local governmental entities is unknown. Most state governmental entities estimate no costs or savings, however, costs or savings related to future contracts are unknown. Some local governments estimate no costs or savings, but prohibition of certain municipal policies may result in unknown costs.


Controversy over ballot title

In Missouri, it is an official I&R provision that the Missouri Secretary of State is to determine a ballot title for each proposed initiative after the initiative's proponents submit their language to that office, and before the initiative starts circulating for signatures.

The ballot title written by Robin Carnahan, the Missouri Secretary of State reads:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
  • ban affirmative action programs designed to eliminate discrimination against, and improve opportunities for, women and
minorities in public contracting, employment and education; and
  • allow preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to meet federal program funds
eligibility standards as well as preferential treatment for bona fide qualifications based on sex?

Successful lawsuit against Carnahan's ballot title

The sponsors of the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Missouri Secretary of State for changing the language to read[4][5][6]:

ban affirmative action programs designed to eliminate discrimination against, and improve opportunities for women and minorities.

Jay MacManus in the Missouri Attorney General's office defended Carnahan's change saying, "I believe people looking at this would conclude that, in fact, it does capture the essence of what this amendment is all about there is no deception here, people will know what this is about. It's about Affirmative Action."[7]

However, on January 7, 2008, Judge Richard Callahan ruled that the ballot title prepared by Carnahan was "insufficient and unfair." Carnahan's ballot title said that the initiative would "allow preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to meet federal program funds eligibility standards..."[8] Judge Callahan also rejected a challenge to the initiative's fiscal impact statement by opponents of the initiative. Carnahan has vowed to appeal Judge Callahan's ruling.[9] Carnahan won a similar appeal on May 2, 2008, but the appeal of Judge Callahan's decision will be dismissed as moot since no signatures were turned in.[10]

As a result of the ruling, paid and volunteer canvassers began soliciting signatures from registered voters.[11]


Constitutionality Deferred

In the same lawsuit, the judge ruled that a constitutional challenge to the initiative was premature.


Petition blocking

Ward Connerly accused Lee Albright of National Petition Management of leading a petition blocking effort against the initiative. Albright denies the charge, saying that, to the best of his knowledge, the blocking effort was managed by Missouri ACORN. Connerly also accused the ACLU, ACORN, BISC, and the NAACP of being involved in the blocking.[12]

Reported tactics to intimidate potential signers include intimidation, screaming and stealing petitions. As a result MoCRI has placed ads hoping to hire more petition circulators.[12] These blockers have also been known to follow circulators, screaming that the initiative is racist and has the support of the Ku Klux Klan. They also threatened that signing to support the measure risks identity theft. In addition, the blockers have dispatched their people to sign petitions with false names and addresses, so that they will be invalidated later, effectively committing ballot fraud.[13]

Proponents

Missouri Civil Rights Initiative.jpg

The measure was sponsored by the American Civil Rights Initiative, a national organization established in 1996 by Ward Connerly and Dusty Rhodes.

The American Civil Rights Initiative is supporting similar measures in other states in 2008, including Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska. The combined effort is known as Super Tuesday for Equal Rights.[14].[15]

Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (MoCRI) advocacy group is leading the campaign. MoCRI's excutive director, Tim Asher is the official sponsor of the initiative. John Uhlmann serves as the honorary chair and Ward Connerly, Chairman of the American Civil Rights Coalition is a mentor to the group.[16]

Asher has been touring the state, recently speaking at the capital "Hispanic Day" to promote the initiative. He met significant resistance.[17]

Ward Connerly did a presentation at the University of Missouri hoping to sway students.[18]

There have been accusations by the opposition to the campaign the circulators are misleading people about which petition they are signing. Asher has insisted that any deception reported to him will be reported. He also recommended that citizens carefully read the petition when signing it.[19]

Connerly raised more donations for his "Super Tuesday" fund, $160,000 which went to the MoCRI initiative. The money will help to pay for more circulators from National Ballot Access.[20]


Opponents

Decline to Sign Training

"Jobs for Justice" has launched a "decline to sign" petition blocking campaign, including training sessions.[21] On February 2, 2008, the Kansas City Star wrote an editorial saying that when the state's voters went to the polls to vote in the February 5, 2008 presidential primary, they might be asked by a petition circulator to sign the petition and, if so, they should "skip this petition."[22]


Church Groups

Missouri Episcopalians and the Diocese of Missouri are joining with a broad coalition of faith-based organizations to oppose the MoCRI.[23]


Counter Initiative

Another group opposing the initiative is "Working to Empower Community Action Now" or "WeCAN." The group sent volunteers into the streets during February's primary to encourage voters not to sign the petition. One volunteer, Rodney Lovings, is quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch telling a voter, "It's not good for St. Louis. It's not good for Missouri. Think before you ink."[24] The group has trained 90 petition blockers to canvass the St. Louis area search for circulators dissuade citizens from signing it. The group also hired local workers through the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now to do the same work.

The group has raised $77,500 in funds to fight the initiative.[25]

As the petition is preparing to start gathering signatures, opponents are meeting to form their own commission to discourage voters from signing.[26]


Universities

Students at Missouri University have arranged a "Missing Minority Campaign" to combat the initiative. The following has been more scattered than predicted with some students siding with the sponsors of the initiative. The missing minority campaign has recruited students, faculty and staff of all ethnicities.[27] The group arranged a campus protest that amounted to 100 people coming.[28]


External links


Additional reading

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See also


Other 2008 Civil Rights Measures


References

  1. Kansas City Star: "Group fails to get enough signatures for anti-affirmative action amendment," May 4, 2008
  2. Missouri a target of group opposing racial preferences St. Louis Tribune, June 28, 2007.
  3. State of Missouri estimate fiscal impact statements for 2008 ballot initiatives
  4. Amendment backer sues over ballot language The St. Louis Daily Record, August 23, 2007
  5. Foes of Affirmative-Action Preferences Say Missouri Official's Edits Changed Meaning of Ballot Measure The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 30, 2007
  6. Missouri asks a loaded question. Saving quotas by fooling voters. The Weekly Standard, October 22, 2007
  7. Anti-Affirmative Action Group Sues Over Wording of Ballot Initiative, KBIA Radio, Dec. 18, 2007
  8. Court Rules Against Carnahan in Affirmative Action Ballot Language Dispute Missourinet, January 7, 2007
  9. Judge rewrites Mo. ballot language on affirmative action Associated Press, January 7, 2008
  10. STATEMENT ON COURT OF APPEALS RULING ON STEM CELL BALLOT SUMMARY LANGUAGE
  11. Judge rewrites Mo. ballot language on affirmative action, Prime Buzz, Jan. 7, 2008
  12. 12.0 12.1 National Review Online, Civil Rights Struggle, April 11, 2008
  13. Wall Street Journal, 'Super Tuesday for Equal Rights', April 23, 2008
  14. Super Tuesday 2008
  15. Four states are new targets for bans on affirmative action preferences Chronicle of Higher Education
  16. MoCRI
  17. St. Louis Today, A boy-next-door is fighting affirmative action, April 27, 2008
  18. Kansas City Star, Affirmative action foe Ward Connerly takes barbs at Truman State, March 28, 2008
  19. Kansas City Star, Affirmative-action supporters call petition drive misleading, April 1, 2008
  20. St. Louis Today, A boy-next-door is fighting affirmative action, April 27, 2008
  21. Jobs with Justice
  22. Voters should skip this petition
  23. Diocese opposes so-called Civil Rights initiative, Episcopal Life Online, Feb. 28, 2008
  24. Effort underway to overturn affirmative action in state contracts St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 6, 2008
  25. St. Louis Today, A boy-next-door fights affirmative action, April 26, 2008
  26. Opponents of affirmative action initiative host hearing, St. Louis Today, Feb. 12, 2008
  27. KOMU News, Affirmative Action Debate, April 14, 2008
  28. Columbia Missourian, Civil Rights Initiative protest moves through MU campus, April 15, 2008