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Pre-Election Series:Analysis of Affirmative Action Issue on November Ballot

"No" Vote Recommended on Ballot Issue No. 2 by Citizen's Research Council

September 8, 2006       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: In cooperation with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC), is presenting analysis of the five referendum issues on the Nov. 7 election ballot. A different issue will be highlighted periodically until election day.)

Proposal 2006-02: Michigan Civil Rights Initiative-Vote No.

The Citizen's Research Council has released its analysis of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative proposal. At the November 7, 2006, general election Michigan voters will be presented with a proposal to add Section 26 to Article I of the 1963 Michigan Constitution "to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes."

If this amendment is adopted, it will not outlaw all affirmative action programs in the state. Michigan statutes contain numerous references to affirmative action and minority status or gender.

Only those that grant preferential treatment to individuals or groups on the basis of minority status or gender would be invalidated by this amendment. However, determining what constitutes preferential treatment will be left to the Michigan court system.

At the state's 15 public universities, the impact would be felt most strongly at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and in the graduate and professional programs across the state. The response to similar restrictions in other states has been to create plans that admit the top percentage of students from each high school to the states' university systems. Michigan's system of independent universities does not readily lend itself to such a percent plan.

With respect to state and local government, recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have already barred the use of quotas and set-asides, and have made it illegal to have an affirmative action preference program without a compelling governmental interest (i.e., remedying the effects of past discrimination). Even when a compelling governmental interest can be proved, the government must use means that are narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.

The State of Michigan has a strong civil service system and competitive bidding for government contracts. It does not provide preferences in hiring or contracting through a statewide affirmative action program.

A review of local governments' policies yielded little evidence of affirmative action programs that grant preferential treatment on the basis of minority status or gender.###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
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