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Prop 16: Affirmative Action

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THIS PROP FAILED

For a quick look at all the props, here's a printable guide in English and in Spanish.

What?

State and local governments and other public entities would – within the limits of federal law – be allowed to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.

Why?

The Democratic-controlled Legislature decided that the time was right to ask California voters to undo the ban on affirmative action imposed by Proposition 209 in 1996, to improve opportunities for people affected by systematic discrimination.

Vote Yes

Supports a constitutional amendment to repeal Proposition 209, which says the state cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.

Vote No

Leaves the 1996 Prop. 209 language in the constitution that says the state cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.

The head of the Legislative Black Caucus, San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, introduced this constitutional amendment before the recent widespread protests for racial justice. Now the fate of Prop. 16 is likely to be seen as a national bellwether, just as in 1996 when California became the first state to ban affirmative action at state institutions.

Ward Connerly, a member of the University of California Board of Regents, led the 1996 campaign against what he called preferential treatment for some racial and ethnic groups. Supporters of Prop. 16 say banning affirmative action in the name of preventing discrimination was deceptive, and university admissions data proves it failed. “Race-neutral solutions cannot fix problems steeped in race,” Weber said.

In opposing Prop. 16, Connerly is joined by politicians and advocates concerned that racial diversity goals could hurt Asian Americans, who have an outsize enrollment in selective state universities. Conservative voices, such as The Wall Street Journal editorial board, oppose the repeal, while much of California’s liberal Democratic establishment supports it. But the ideological divide is not clear-cut as both sides say they are supporting equal opportunity civil rights.

Get Ready to Vote

Nov. 3 may feel far away now, but don’t forget to take the necessary steps to make sure you get to cast your vote! Here are some key details to remember:

  • Register to vote online by or have your mail-in registration postmarked by Oct. 19. If you somehow miss the deadline, all is not lost. You can still conditionally register up to Election Day itself. Not sure what your registration status is? Find out here.
  • Because of COVID-19, California is mailing all active registered voters mail-in ballots this year, so you don't need to request one.
  • Mailed ballots should be postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by your county’s elections office no later than Nov. 20. Scared your ballot is going to get lost in the mail? Don’t fret, the California Secretary of State has a ballot tracking tool so you can get notified of the status of your vote-by-mail ballot via email, text or call. Sign up here
  • If you want to deliver your ballot in person on Election day, make sure you do so by the time the polls close on Nov. 3.
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