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In 1998 Washington voters approved a ballot measure, Initiative 200, barring the state’s government from giving preferential treatment to anyone based on race, gender or national origin. Just before ending its regular session last month, the state’s Democrat-controlled Legislature passed a bill repealing that ban, a measure supported by the state’s Democratic governor and presidential candidate Jay Inslee (D).
“Our state is stronger when it is inclusive of all people, and everyone has an equitable chance to participate,” Inslee tweeted after the bill’s passage.
The measure was brought before state lawmakers after affirmative action advocates collected more than 395,000 signatures in support of the proposal. Washington law allows such referred initiatives, which go to the state’s voters unless they’re approved by lawmakers.
But Initiative 200 was approved on a 58 percent to 42 percent vote, albeit at a time when ending affirmative action was a trend in state legislatures. And some opponents of the repeal measure said it lumped government contracting together with access to higher education.
“We need to exercise caution as we seek to do something that the people of this state said we do not want: discrimination based on race, based on gender, based on other categories,” said Sen. Hans Zeigler (R). (HILL [WASHINGTON D.C.])