Smart Voter
State of Washington November 3, 1998 General
Initiative 200
Discrimination/Preferential Treatment

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Infomation shown below: Official Information | Impartial Analysis | Arguments |
Shall government be prohibited from discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education, and contracting?
Official Sources of Information
Impartial Analysis from the State Attorney General

The Law As It Presently Exists

Washington currently has a Law Against Discrimination, codified as Chapter 49.60 RCW, which prohibits discrimination against any person because of race, creed, color, national origin (including ancestry), families with children, sex, marital status, age, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability. This law is enforced by the courts and also by a Human Rights Commission created for that purpose.

Existing state law also includes provisions requiring state agencies and institutions to take affirmative action to increase employment opportunities for women, racial minorities, persons in protected age categories, persons with disability, Vietnam-era veterans, and disabled veterans. State law directs the Personnel Resources Board to adopt affirmative action goals and procedures for hiring and promotion by state agencies, and provides that affirmative action "shall not mean any sort of quota system". There is a similar, specific affirmative action law for employment in the Washington State Patrol.

Another state law, chapter 39.19 RCW, establishes the Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises and provides for a program to increase the participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in public works and procurement contracts. This agency is directed by the law to identify barriers to equal participation by qualified minority- and women-owned and controlled businesses, to establish annual overall participation goals for each agency, to develop and maintain a list of certified minority and women's business enterprises, and to monitor compliance with the law.

The State's universities and four-year colleges have legal authority to establish their own entrance requirements for students. These requirements must be consistent with state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination. The universities and colleges have adopted a variety of admissions policies for undergraduate and graduate students, depending on the institution and the nature of the specific program. Some of the admissions policies state an objective of selecting students who have demonstrated capacity for high quality work and who will contribute to the diversity of the student body, based on such factors as racial or ethnic origin, gender, cultural background, activities or accomplishments, career goals, living experiences or special talents.

Political subdivisions and local governments determine their own ordinances and policies, consistent with state and federal law.

There are also a number of federal laws prohibiting discrimination or requiring affirmative action, and many state and local agencies are required to comply with these laws as a condition to receiving federal funds or participating in certain federal programs.

The Effect Of The Measure If Approved Into Law

Initiative Measure No. 200 would add new provisions to state law. It would prohibit state and local agencies from discriminating against, or granting 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. The measure does not define the term "preferential treatment", and does not specify how continued implementation or enforcement of existing laws would be affected if this measure were approved. The effect of the proposed measure would thus depend on how its provisions are interpreted and applied.

The measure would not affect any otherwise lawful classification that (a) is based on sex and is necessary for sexual privacy or medical or psychological treatment; or (b) is necessary for undercover law enforcement or for film, video, audio, or theatrical casting; or (c) provides separate athletic teams for each sex. The measure would not prohibit actions that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for federal programs, if ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.

This measure would apply to state government, to all state agencies, and publicly supported colleges and universities, and to all counties, cities, school districts, special districts, and political subdivisions of the state. Remedies for violations would be the same as are available for violations of the existing law against discrimination.

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Arguments For Initiative 200 Arguments Against Initiative 200

It's time for the government to stop using different rules for different races. Civil rights laws are supposed to forbid discrimination on the basis of race and gender in employment and education. But instead of ignoring race, the government uses it through the use of racial quotas, preferences and set-asides. Take the case of Katuria Smith, a young woman from Marysville, who grew up in poverty and worked her way through community college and eventually the University of Washington before applying to the UW law school. Despite superb grades and test scores she was rejected. Award-winning columnist Nat Hentoff has reported, however, that the school's Dean told him she would have been admitted if she were black*. It's time for government to get out of the discrimination business.


Initiative 200 is short, clear, and does exactly what its ballot title says it will do -- prohibit discrimination or preferences based on race or gender in public employment and education.


Initiative 200 does not end all affirmative action programs. It prohibits only those programs that use race or gender to select a less qualified applicant over a more deserving applicant for a public job, contract or admission to a state college or university. No scholarships or job training programs paid for by the private sector are affected by the initiative. It applies only to government.


More and more Americans want to move beyond race. Initiative 200 takes us in that direction. Please vote "Yes" on Initiative 200.

For more information, call (425) 450-1074.

*The Dean disputes this account.

Rebuttal to Arguments Above
The proponents' statement is incomplete and misleading. Here's what they're not telling you:

I-200 will hurt women and pay equity.

It's already illegal to hire less qualified applicants.

When it passed in California, this same measure eliminated programs that opened doors for qualified women and minorities. The San Francisco Chronicle said it "went too far" because "discrimination, whether intentional or not, still exists."

Take a closer look. Check the facts. Vote no on I-200.

Arguments In Favor Submitted By
JOHN CARLSON, Co-Chair, Initiative 200; SCOTT SMITH, State Representative, Pierce County, Co-Chair, Initiative 200; JEANNETTE HAYNER, Senate Majority Leader (ret.), Walla Walla.

Advisory Committee: ANN ANDERSON, State Senator (R) - Bellingham, Lynden; MICHAEL HEAVEY, State Senator (D), West Seattle, Burien, Vashon; MARY A. RADCLIFFE, past Co-chair, Episcopal Diocese Committee on Racism; PATRICIA HERBOLD, Attorney, community volunteer, Bellevue; CLYDE BALLARD, Speaker, State Representative (R), East Wenatchee.

Dear Washington Voter,

I have studied Initiative 200 and I am concerned about the consequences it could have on the people of Washington. At first glance it appears to promote equality, but in reality, it very likely will have the opposite effect.

Washington is a community that can take pride in our efforts to ensure equal opportunity for all. We can all be proud of the progress we've made. But we still have a long way to go. This is not the time to jeopardize the programs designed to give people a hand up, rather than a hand out.

Because of its vague and broadly written language, I-200 can and will be read many ways. It is confusing and will create a tangle of expensive lawsuits. It could eliminate job training programs that help women and minorities make the transition from welfare to work.

Education is the great equalizer. I know this from personal experience. But this plan could end targeted educational opportunities, like tutoring, that can give children a helping hand early.

I-200 could set back our efforts to achieve equal pay for women. Women, on average, still make only 74 cents to every dollar earned by men for the same work. We need to change that.

I-200 takes our community in the wrong direction. I urge you to take a closer look, it's not worth the risk. Please join me in voting no!


Governor Gary Locke

For more information, call (206) 441-9120 or visit

Rebuttal to Arguments Above
I-200 is clear: the government should not use race or gender to treat applicants for employment or education opportunities differently. Why? Because all Americans deserve protection from race or sex discrimination. That's the principle at stake in this election.

Our opponents, especially the ACLU, support preferences because they want to magnify race instead of minimizing it. They are out of touch and out of date. Yes on 200.

Arguments Against Submitted By
GARY LOCKE, Governor; ELIZABETH PIERINI, President, League of Women Voters of Washington.

Advisory Committee: DAN EVANS, Former Governor and U.S. Senator; MARI CLACK, Spokane business owner; RICK BENDER, President, Washington State Labor Council; HUBERT LOCKE, Professor; REV. JOHN BOONSTRA, Executive Minister, Washington Association of Churches.

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Created: February 16, 1999 18:53
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