Reinstated affirmative action could go to the hands of voters in November

Voters could get the final say on the laws that newly reinstate affirmative action in Washington state, as opponents announced Wednesday that they had collected enough signatures to bring the measure to voters.

Political action committee Let People Vote announced on its website that it had collected 176,956 signatures and delivered them to the Secretary of State’s Office. The group needed to collect 130,000 signatures by Saturday to qualify Referendum 88 for November’s general election ballot.

Voting “yes” on Referendum 88 would affirm lawmakers’ approval of Initiative-1000, which was approved along party lines by lawmakers on the last day of the legislative session in April. A “no” vote would reject the law.

The new affirmative action laws would have started on Sunday if the petitioners had not met the deadline.

If the signatures are verified by the state, the referendum would ask voters to decide on Initiative 1000, which counteracted the state’s 20-year ban on “preferential treatment.” The ban started when voters approved Initiative 200 in 1998, which effectively ended affirmative action in Washington state.

The path to reinstating affirmative action began last year when the One Washington Equality campaign, led by former state legislator Jesse Wineberry and others, gathered enough signatures for I-1000. The initiative petitioned the Legislature to allow state agencies to consider “discrimination against, or underrepresentation of, disadvantaged groups,” including women, people of color and veterans of the military when it comes to hiring, contracts, education and targeted recruiting.

The use of quotas or preferential treatment for less-qualified candidates based solely on their race or sex would continue to be banned.

During the legislative session, opposition to I-1000 was led by Washington Asians for Equality, conservative Asian American political action committee. However, other Asian Americans political groups, including Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment (APACE), told The Seattle Globalist in April that they supported affirmative action and called I-1000 “a great step in the right direction.”

Updated: to clarify the effect of a “yes” vote and a “no” vote on Referendum 88.