The Seattle Medium
Last Friday, members of the Yes on I-1000 initiative turned in petitions with over 387,000 signatures, to the Washington State Secretary of State’s office. The initiative which is a statewide initiative to the Legislature to repeal I-200 while promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in public education, employment as well as in contracting for qualified women, veterans, and citizens with disabilities. The new bill will enable qualified citizens of color in Washington protection from discrimination when seeking future opportunities.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, I-1000 submitted the largest number of signatures for an initiative to the Legislature in state history.
The next steps for I-1000 is for the Secretary of State’s office to verify the signatures. If the petitions have more than the required 260,000 signatures the initiative will be forwarded to the state legislature for consideration during the current session.
In 1998, voters in Washington state passed Initiative 200 (I-200), led by conservatives John Calrson and Tim Eyman, which has been described by some diversity advocates as the state’s most racist and sexist ballot measure in state history. With the passage of I-200, Washington became the second state to ban the use of race or gender in public education, public employment and public contracting.
According to yes1000.com, since the passage of I-200 the unemployment rate of African Americans has risen by 7%, which is the most of any ethnic group, and the unemployment rate for Hispanics has risen by 6% since the passing of I-200, the second highest of any ethnic group in the state of Washington.
“People who are not discriminated against are buying our homes and pushing us out,” says Nathaniel Jackson, former aid to Governor Dan Evans. “We are not getting food on the table like we should and we are not getting the jobs we are qualified for.”
According to yes1000.com, since the implementation of I-200, state spending with minority and woman owned businesses has decreased from 10% to 3%, resulting in billions of dollars of lost revenue tosmall, minority and woman-owned businesses.
“Since the passage of I-200, state spending with certified minority and woman-owned businesses has plummeted from 10% to a 3% average of available state contracting and procurement dollars,” says Teresa Bernsten, former Director of the Washington State Office of Women and Minority Business Enterprises. “This 7% drop in state spending has resulted in a $3.5 billion loss to small, minority and woman-owned businesses over the last 20 years.”
Supporters of I-1000 claim that prior to I-200 over 70% of qualified African American students were admitted to the University of Washington. By contrast, the group says that 70% of qualified African American students that applied to the university were denied admission in 2017.
Last January, State Senator Marilyn Chase sponsored Senate Bill 6406 (SB6406) to revoke I-200 and remove the prejudices and discrimination towards minorities and women in schooling, employment and contracting that have been associated with the initiative by various advocacy groups. However, the legislation did not make it to the floor for a vote. Four months later, a coalition, led by El Centro De La Raza, filed Initiative 1644 (I-1644) which was designed to reinstate affirmative action without using quotas, and would also protect veterans and citizens with disabilities. However, the group did not receive enough signatures to be placed on the 2018 ballot for the general election.
In July, a coalition of community members led by Jackson and former State Rep. Jesse Wineberry, initiated I-1000, which contains the same language as I-1644 with the addition of sexual orientation in all Washington’s anti-affirmative action laws, as a measure to be considered by the state legislature during the 2018 legislative session. In order to do so the group needed to have at least 260,000 signatures from Washington state voters by January 4, 2019.
According to Jackson, the group expects to get a final signature count from the Secretary of State’s office within the next seven to ten days.
After the submission of the signed petitions Gov. Jay Inslee issued his support the legislation during the upcoming session.
“Once the Secretary of State validates the signatures, I will make it a priority to have it passed by the Legislature in the upcoming session,” said Inslee.
“We know systemic inequities remain that cause communities of color, veterans, people with disabilities and women to face persistent barriers to work and education opportunities,” Inslee continued. “I-1000 is a well-considered approach to updating our state’s policies and ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in government contracts, employment and schools. This policy will help provide the pathways to opportunity that all our communities deserve.”