Group launches campaign to bring back affirmative action in Washington

A volunteer holds a sticker showing support for Initiative 1000 outside a joint Washington state House and Senate committee, Thursday, April 18, 2019, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SEATTLE — On Thursday, a group representing hundreds of local organizations, unions and businesses will launch its formal campaign in support of affirmative action in Washington.

The Washington Fairness Campaign is in support of Initiative 1000, which would restore affirmative action policies in the state after they were repealed in 1998.

The initiative got nearly 400,000 signatures – the most ever of any initiative in the state -- to put it before lawmakers. It was passed by the Legislature this year, but opponents of the initiative collected enough signatures to force a statewide vote on I-1000, now known as Referendum 88,  on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Supporters say restoring affirmative action will help underrepresented communities, while critics say it uses quotas. Read more about the arguments for and against affirmative action here.

"They have to set, count numbers, set goals, implement hiring, to meet those goals by (a) deadline enforced by an agency. Our courts have ruled that constitutes quotas," said attorney Yvonne Kinoshita Ward.

Though I-1000 says it restores affirmative action without the use of quotas, opponents submitted a voters' pamphlet statement that says the text of the law adds up to quotas despite the explicit ban on them.

I-1000 sponsor Larry Dugger went to court to stop the pamphlet from going to voters, but a judge declined to issue an injunction.

"If you read I-1000, I-1000 states three times, no quotas," Dugger said.

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