Opponents of Equal Opportunity Seek To Withdraw Their Own Ballot Measure

Affiliate: ACLU of Oklahoma
April 8, 2008 12:00 am

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Civil Rights Foes Hit Firewall In Oklahoma

NEW YORK – In a significant blow to a national campaign against equal opportunity in America, backers of a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that would end equal access and opportunity programs in the state have asked the state supreme court to withdraw the measure from consideration. The move comes after supporters of the so-called Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative – spearheaded by Ward Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) as part of a national crusade against affirmative action – failed to collect the signatures needed to get the proposal on this November’s ballot. In conceding defeat, Connerly characterized the ACRI’s efforts in Oklahoma as a “miscalculation.”

“The most recent developments in Oklahoma only lend further legitimacy to the widespread concerns that have been raised about the tactics used by Connerly in each of the states he has targeted,” said Reginald T. Shuford, senior staff attorney in the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “The efforts of Connerly and the ACRI are an affront to the ideals they claim to support, and my hope is that this is only the first of a string of victories on behalf of the many Americans who believe so strongly in equality and equal opportunity.”

Oklahoma is one of five states, along with Arizona, Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska, currently targeted by Connerly and his ACRI. The deceptively worded initiatives claim to end “discrimination” and “preferences,” but have been cited as the basis for rolling back a wide range of equal opportunity programs in each state where they have been adopted. The ACRI has been accused of deliberately misleading voters in every state where it has campaigned, including a year and a half ago in Michigan, where a federal court found the organization had engaged in voter fraud.

“The hope is that this is the beginning of the end of Mr. Connerly’s flawed campaign,” said John Payton, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). “The attempts by supporters of this initiative to manipulate the democratic process never garnered support from the people of Oklahoma, who have instead stood up to defend access to equal opportunity for all.”

The request for withdrawal follows a lawsuit challenging the proposal on behalf of Oklahoma voters brought by the ACLU Racial Justice Program, LDF, the ACLU Foundation of Oklahoma and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, which raised deep concerns about the signature-gathering process and the constitutionality of the ballot petition itself.

“Secretary of State Susan Savage found numerous irregularities in the signature-gathering process,” said Chuck Thornton, legal director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “We continue to find such deficiencies in our on-the-ground investigation, consistent with the beliefs of OCRI’s own backers that its petition is defective and should be withdrawn.”

Additional information on the signature challenge in Oklahoma can be found at:ww.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa/34594res20080307.html

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