Hyeok Kim (left), a chair for WA Fairness, reacts as supporter Tony Au cheers behind as early results are posted at an election night party for supporters of Referendum 88 on Tuesday in Seattle. Voters were deciding whether one’s minority status should be considered as a contributing factor in state employment, contracting and admission to public colleges and universities. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Hyeok Kim (left), a chair for WA Fairness, reacts as supporter Tony Au cheers behind as early results are posted at an election night party for supporters of Referendum 88 on Tuesday in Seattle. Voters were deciding whether one’s minority status should be considered as a contributing factor in state employment, contracting and admission to public colleges and universities. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

State rejecting affirmative action referendum

It was passing in King County, the state’s most populous, it was being rejected in most other areas.

By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — A measure that reinstates the use of affirmative action in state employment, contracting and admission to public colleges and universities was losing Tuesday night in early returns.

Referendum 88 asks people whether they want to approve or reject Initiative 1000, which was passed by the Legislature in April. I-1000 amends current statutes that prohibit state government from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to individuals or groups based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, or public contracting.

While it was passing in King County, the state’s most populous, it was being rejected in most other areas.

The initiative would allow the consideration of being part of a minority group to be a contributing factor for a qualified applicant. Along with race, sex, and ethnicity, the measure allows consideration of age, disability and honorable discharge or military status. It would prohibit using factors such as race as the sole qualifier and bans mandatory quotas but would allow state agencies and public colleges and universities to establish diversity goals and timelines. A commission would be created to direct and oversee compliance.

I-1000 was supposed to take effect in July but was put on hold after opponents collected enough signatures to force a referendum.

Washington is one of eight states — including California, Florida and Oklahoma — that ban affirmative action in state government and public colleges and universities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Washington’s ban came with 1998’s Initiative 200, which was approved by 58% of voters.

U.S. Supreme Court decisions have allowed colleges to consider race as long as it is “narrowly tailored” to promote diversity and is just one factor among many. Racial quotas have been ruled unconstitutional.

Opponents who pushed to get the referendum on the ballot argue the goals and timetables allowed under I-1000 are essentially quotas by another name. Proponents say the goals of diversity under the measure clearly do not allow quotas, set-asides, or preferences for lesser-qualified individuals.

Ballots were sent to the state’s nearly 4.5 million voters last month. Washington is an all-mail-ballot state and ballots must be postmarked or deposited in local drop boxes by 8 p.m. Tuesday, which means final results might not be known for days after the election.

More in Northwest

Controversial state lawmaker spreads views across West

Republican Rep. Matt Shea is a co-founder of the Coalition of Western States.

Washington files multistate lawsuit to block 3D gun files

The lawsuit, joined by California, New York and 17 other states.

Mayor, police pledge action after deadly Seattle shooting

It was the third violent incident this week in a part of the city long known for rampant drug use.

House passes bill to let State Patrol destroy crime guns

Several Republican lawmakers said the guns should be sold instead.

Trump to remove protections of waters, including Puget Sound

Real estate developers stand to reap the biggest regulatory and financial relief from the new rule.

House Democrats may skip further actions against Rep. Shea

Documents supporting the conclusion that Shea could have engaged in domestic terrorism will be released.

1 dead, 7 injured in shooting on downtown Seattle sidewalk

The gunfire erupted outside a McDonald’s around 5 p.m. at the corner of Third Avenue and Pine Street.

Seattle commuters fume at cost of Uber, Lyft after shooting

A block was taped off, and buses in the area were rerouted and far behind schedule during rush hour.

Firefighter burned in 2015 Twisp fire reaches $5M settlement

His claimed utility companies failed to keep branches away from a power line, which caused the fire.

Most Read