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Proposition 16: Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment


Proposition 16 is a constitutional amendment that would repeal Proposition 209, passed in 1996, from the California Constitution. Proposition 209 stated that discrimination and preferential treatment were prohibited in public employment, public education, and public contracting on account of a person's or group's race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Therefore, Proposition 209 banned the use of affirmative action involving race-based or sex-based preferences in California.

Without Proposition 209, the state government, local governments, public universities, and other political subdivisions and public entities would—within the limits of federal law—be allowed to develop and use affirmative action programs that grant preferences based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.

  • Permits government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to address diversity by repealing article I, section 31, of the California Constitution, which was added by Proposition 209 in 1996
  • Proposition 209 generally prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, individuals or groups on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, education, or contracting
  • Does not alter other state and federal laws guaranteeing equal protection and prohibiting unlawful discrimination

Text of initiative


Support website: Vote Yes on Prop 16

 "I know about discrimination. I live it every day. We live it in this building. Quit lying to yourselves and saying race is not a factor... the bedrock of who we are in this country is based on race."

-State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-35)

"Proposition 209, deceptively titled the California Civil Rights Initiative, passed by referendum in 1996 amidst an orchestrated campaign of dog-whistle politics attacking all attempts to level the playing field for women and people of color. Before Prop 209, those efforts at advancing equity had made real progress. But the Wall Street-backed authors of the initiative saw a threat to their economic stranglehold from an increasingly diverse and highly educated population in California; a population better situated to compete in jobs, education, government contracts and other areas of the state’s economy. In passing Prop 209, those groups limited competition in their industries and benefited their own businesses by erecting new institutional barriers burdening the ability of California’s women and people of color achieve positions of economic and business leadership."

-U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif. 37)

 "It makes little sense to exclude any consideration of race in admissions when the aim of the University’s holistic process is to fully understand and evaluate each applicant through multiple dimensions. Proposition 209 has forced California public institutions to try to address racial inequality without factoring in race, even where allowed by federal law. The diversity of our university and higher education institutions across California, should — and must — represent the rich diversity of our state."

-University of California President Janet Napolitano


Opposition website: Californians for Equal Rights

"Nevertheless, if more spaces are to be made for the under-represented, they must come from the over-represented. Asian Americans are 15.3 percent of Californians, yet 39.72 percent of UC enrollees. Those numbers are why bringing this issue forward now would inevitably divide Californians racially: Latino Americans and African Americans on one side, Asian Americans on the other. The politics are inescapably racial."

-Former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell (R)

"Is it right to give someone a job just because they are white, or black or green or yellow? Or just because they are male? Repealing Proposition 209, enacted by voters 24 years ago, is to repeal the prohibition of judgment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity and national origin. We are talking about legalizing racism and sexism."

-Asm. Steven S. Choi (R-68)

"The Californians who voted to pass Prop. 209 knew that discrimination, though long entrenched in our society, is against the fundamental values of American culture. Prop. 209 applied to California the essence of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a nation where individuals would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

-Michelle Steel, Chairwoman, Orange County Board of Supervisors
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Lisa Sturgis

Lisa Sturgis recently returned to KYMA as its Digital Content Director, but she and her family have a long history in the Desert Southwest.


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