A measure on this year's ballot asks California voters to amend the state constitution. If passed, Proposition 16 would end the ban on affirmative action laws that were reversed by Proposition 209 in 1996.
Prop 209 says race or sex can not be considered when it comes to state college applications, hiring, and awarding work contracts, ultimately banning the use of affirmative action in California.
“Proposition 16 will allow equal opportunity for people in California so women and people of color will have opportunities in employment education and contracting,” said Eva Paterson, founder and president of the Equal Justice Society.
She is in favor of bringing back affirmative action.
“Proposition 16 is a way to level the playing field, it’s a way to make sure all Californians get a fair shot at things,” she said.
But not everyone feels that way.
Dr. Gail Heriot is a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
“All the current law does, all Proposition 209 California Constitution says is you cannot make the assumption that just because of someone’s race is that they are the ones that need that extra leg up and I think we should keep it,” she said.
California was the first state to adopt a constitutional ban on race and sex based affirmative action receiving over 54% of the vote.
Ward Cnnerly, a member of the University of California Board of Regents, led the 209 campaign saying, “affirmative action was meant to be temporary.”
“I think in 1996 we were in this era of ‘post racial, I don’t see color,’” said Paterson. “I think what happened with the murder of Mr. Floyd is Americans, white Americans see ‘wow racism is still there.’ It’s not just Black people and Latinos, Native Americans complaining about nothing. We see what’s really going on.”
A “yes” vote on Prop 16 will show that there’s been a shift in California politics over the years.
“This summer has been a summer where we’re focused on race. That's a legitimate thing, something we all need to think about,” said Heriot. “The question is, are we going to fix the problems in society by creating programs of preferential treatment that essentially apply to upper middle class under-represented minorities.”
No one will know until all the votes are counted in November.