Prop 16 confusion: Affirmative action ballot measure struggling in polls

ByAlix Martichoux and Stephanie Sierra KGO logo
Friday, October 2, 2020
Prop 16 confusion: Affirmative action measure struggles in polls
Despite the recent political movement in favor of social justice reforms, Prop 16 is struggling to gain support. Why? It may have to do with the measure's confusing wording.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Proposition 16 aims to restore affirmative action in California via the November 2020 ballot. But despite the recent political wave in favor of social justice, the ballot measure isn't polling particularly well.

Why? It may have something to do with the measure's confusing wording.

Prop 16, if passed, would repeal 1996's Proposition 209, which banned the government and public institutions (like schools) from discriminating or giving preferential treatment based on sex, race, ethnicity or nationality. Prop 209 effectively banned public employers, universities and the like from using affirmative action, as it was seen as discriminatory.

CA PROPS: Everything to know about the 2020 ballot measures

Overturning a law that prevents discrimination -- that sounds bad, right? That's the part that's confusing even supporters of affirmative action.

"Watching a focus group with Black voters from Los Angeles, they all said no we won't vote for this as it was read to them," said Eva Patterson, who co-chairs the Yes on 16 campaign. "Then we explained that it was in favor of affirmative action and equal opportunity, and they all said, 'Of course we'll vote for this.'"

Other voters may not even realize affirmative action is basically illegal in California.

The latest polling on Proposition 16 shows 31% of Californians in favor, 47% opposed and 22% unsure. In the Bay Area, the numbers are a bit more in favor of the measure: 40% for, 41% against and 19% not sure.

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"Passing Prop 16, it's about leveling the playing field," said supporter Jose Lara Cruz. "It's about giving people the opportunity to be competitive in the labor force."

The argument against the measure is simple: Discrimination is bad even whether it benefits historically underprivileged groups or not.

If you're confused about Prop 16 or any of the 2020 California ballot measure, we've created a comprehensive guide to all of the props. You can click on the interactive guide below, or read more here.

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