Proposed Ballot Initiative Withdrawn In Face Of ACLU Lawsuit
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JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Faced with an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, a political operative who has failed twice before to place an anti-affirmative action initiative on the Missouri ballot has abandoned his latest attempt to rewrite the state constitution to ban equal opportunity programs.
Timothy Asher, head of the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative, which has led two unsuccessful efforts in the past two years to place before state voters an unconstitutional ballot initiative that would have rolled back an array of affirmative action programs, officially requested last week to withdraw his third attempt to qualify his initiative for the ballot. The ACLU, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri filed a lawsuit in August charging that Asher's latest proposed initiative sought to trick and defraud Missouri voters.
"This is a huge victory that will protect programs intended to ensure that women and racial and ethnic minorities are given an equal opportunity to compete," said Reginald T. Shuford, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "Essential programs, including data collection requirements that help the government identify racial, ethnic and gender discrimination, will now remain in place."
All of Asher's proposed initiatives would have changed the Missouri Constitution by effectively decimating many equal opportunity programs, leading to the erosion of the participation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in public education, state contracting and employment.
"The state of Missouri has a constitutional obligation to ensure that no one is denied opportunity because of unfair and unjust discrimination," said Stephen Douglas Bonney, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. "America is the land of equal opportunity and these proposed initiatives flew in the face of some of our most cherished ideals."
Missouri was one of three states – along with Arizona and Oklahoma – in which efforts to qualify anti-equal opportunity initiatives for the ballot during the 2008 election cycle failed. A similar measure made it on the ballot in Colorado but was rejected by voters. Asher spearheaded the effort in Missouri, working as part of a largely unsuccessful national campaign targeting several states led by millionaire Californian Ward Connerly.
Asher submitted a second proposed initiative at the end of 2008, and the ACLU responded by filing a lawsuit charging that it was unconstitutional and fraudulent. In June 2009, a Missouri circuit court judge struck down the initiative, ruling that it didn't comply with state law.
After Asher submitted his third proposed ballot initiative in July 2009, the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging it, charging that the initiative would confuse voters by unconstitutionally forcing them to vote on multiple issues in a single proposition and that the ballot summary certified by the secretary of state contained language that was unfair and misleading, in violation of Missouri law. The ACLU lawsuit also charged that Missouri's auditor failed to adequately assess the proposed initiative's fiscal impact.
Other attorneys on the case include Anthony E. Rothert of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and ACLU cooperating attorney Arlene Zarembka of St. Louis.
A copy of Asher's letter seeking withdrawal of his proposed initiative, and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's approval, is available online at: www.aclu.org/racial-justice/jones-et-al-v-carnahan-et-al-asher-letter-requesting-withdrawal
A copy of the ACLU's most recent lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/racial-justice/jones-et-al-v-carnahan-et-al-petition-declaratory-judgment-and-permanent-injunction
Additional information about equal opportunity is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa
Additional information about the ACLU of Eastern Missouri is available online at: www.aclu-em.org
Additional information about the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri is available at: www.aclukswmo.org