Ward Connerly Initiative Fails in Oklahoma

Civil rights foes hit November ballot firewall

Ward Connerly’s campaign to end affirmative action in five states suffered a blow Tuesday. Backers of a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution to end equal access and opportunity programs asked the state supreme court to withdraw the measure. The request follows a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), which raised concerns about the signature-gathering process and the constitutionality of the ballot petition itself.

To get on the ballot, petitioners would have needed 138,970 valid signatures. The Oklahoma secretary of state’s office counted 141,184 signatures but found a number of duplicates. According to reports, Connerly characterizes the efforts in Oklahoma as a “miscalculation.” His proponents say that they could not meet the 90-day time frame required to get 138,970 valid signatures. According to Connerly, most states allow at least 120 days for getting signatures and the typical validity rate is 75%.

Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute is leading a national effort called Super Tuesday for Equal Rights, which seeks to educate the public on the harms of race and gender preferences. Last month, his campaign succeeded in delivering nearly 129,000 signatures to Colorado authorities in support of ending race-based policies. But the United for Equality and Affirmative Action Legal Defense Fund, an organization dedicated to integrating minority students into educational institutions, disputed the validity of the Colorado petition, stating there were several fraudulent signatures on it.

“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,” says Reginald T. Shuford, senior staff attorney in the ACLU Racial Justice Program, in a statement. Connerly and his supporters are still eyeing Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, and Nebraska to get the initiative on the November election ballot.

Civil rights groups continue to mobilize to defeat the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative in the remaining four states. Opponents argue it is deceptively worded, claiming to end “discrimination” and “preferences,” but is the basis for rolling back a wide range of equal opportunity programs in each state where it has been adopted. ACRI has been accused of misleading voters in every state where it has campaigned, including in Michigan, where a federal court found the organization had engaged in voter fraud.

“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,” says John Payton, LDF president and director-counsel, in a statement. “The hope is that this is the beginning of the end of Mr. Connerly’s flawed campaign.”

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