Proponents of the so-called Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative (OKCRI)-backed by millionaire California businessman Ward Connerly and his so-called American Civil Rights Institute-were put on the defensive when local civil rights advocates, in collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, began looking into the OKCRI's fishy signature-gathering process earlier this year.
Connerly and his cronies have a history of using devious tactics to thwart the democratic process. Their strategy to deceive voters through misleading ballot language and signature-gathering practices got them in hot water in federal court in Michigan, and voters in Colorado have accused the ACRI of lying about the intent of a current initiative. As a result, civil rights groups have been watching Connerly's associates closely in Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona and Missouri, where they are using the same dirty tricks to place similar initiatives on the ballot this fall.
In Oklahoma, after reviewing the signatures submitted in favor of the OKCRI, the Secretary of State identified an unprecedented number of serious irregularities, including numerous duplicate names and addresses and instances of petitioners signing their own signature sheets multiple times. Faced with a legal challenge to the signatures by the ACLU and NAACP LDF, OKCRI proponents moved to withdraw the initiative altogether, stating that they do not want to 'waste [the] Court's efforts nor taxpayer money...when [they] are reasonably certain that [the initiative] will fail to garner to requisite number of signatures.'
Given that these initiatives rely on deception to garner support, it's no surprise that a serious investigation has the proponents running scared. Voters in each state where equal opportunity is under attack must hold Connerly and his allies accountable and ensure that the truth is brought to light.
To learn more about the importance of affirmative action, visit www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa. For information about the ACLU's work on women's rights, visit www.aclu.org/womenshistory.
-By Ana Weibgen and Nicole Kief