Racial data ban won't make fall ballot

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Racial data ban won't make fall ballot
Ward Connerly looks to the 2004 election for his initiative.
By Ed Fletcher -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Thursday, June 27, 2002
Anti-affirmative action activist Ward Connerly's initiative to prevent state and local governments from collecting racial data will not make the November ballot, election officials said Wednesday.

The initiative, which Connerly says will lead to a "colorblind" society in California, likely will be on the 2004 presidential primary ballot instead.

Connerly says the Racial Privacy Initiative would free Californians from being "straitjacketed" into choosing from racial and ethnic classifications that fit an ever-shrinking pool of people.

Opponents say the measure would undo civil rights protections. It is viewed as the follow-up to Connerly's Proposition 209, which prohibited race- or gender-based preferences for government contracting and hiring.

Connerly said the Racial Privacy Initiative is better suited for the 2004 ballot.

"It deserves a very careful debate," said Connerly. "Free of politics as much as it can be."

The plan, according to Connerly, was to turn in enough valid signatures for the initiative to qualify via a slower counting process in order to push it off what will likely be 2004. If backers had turned in enough signatures to qualify for the faster signature count, the measure could have been on the Nov. 5 ballot, as Connerly initially envisioned.

The official deadline for initiatives to qualify for the November ballot is today. County election officials in Los Angeles and San Francisco said they won't be done with counting signatures until sometime after today, leaving no chance the measure will have the 670,816 valid signatures it would need to qualify for the November ballot.

The move, Connerly said, saved him from raising and spending the $200,000 it would have cost to hire additional signature gatherers to qualify for the fast count. It also gives Connerly more time to raise money to support the initiative.

Connerly said he hopes opponents will cool off and see the merits of the measure over time.

Lack of money also scuttled Connerly's efforts last May, when he shut down the initiative operation before signature gathering had begun, recalibrating the campaign for November 2002 instead of the March 5 primary.

Connerly said opponents have been misrepresenting the measure -- charging that it would hurt breast cancer research.

The measure would expressly prohibit government from collecting data on race, ethnicity, color or national origin in most cases. Connerly said it has exemptions that would allow the collection of data for medical and law enforcement purposes and the reporting of some education information to the federal government. Lawmakers and the governor could exempt other areas, but not education or state hiring and contracting.

His association with the measure is driving some of the opposition, Connerly said.

"They want to fight because they are so accustomed to fighting me," he said.

Many groups, including the California Coalition for Civil Rights, don't appear to be ready to end the fight.

"We think that is its entirely detrimental to the people of California," said Rico Oyola, project director for the coalition.

The data still is used to measure racial disparities and look for ways to solve them, Oyola said.

Michelle Alexander, director of the Civil Rights Project at Stanford University Law School, said it is a good sign that Connerly did not have enough signatures to qualify in November.

"The strength of the support is simply lacking," Alexander said.

She said the measure would threaten "a whole host of programs that are critical for the health and safety of all Californians."


About the Writer
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The Bee's Ed Fletcher can be reached at (916) 326-5548 or efletcher@sacbee.com .
 

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