The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Connerly Turns in Signatures for Michigan Anti-Affirmative Action Ballot Initiative
Feature Story by Ritu Kelotra - 1/6/2005Ward Connerly's Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) campaign submitted signatures today in an attempt to qualify an anti-affirmative action initiative for the November 2006 ballot.
Michigan law requires that MCRI collect approximately 320,000 valid signatures in order for the measure to qualify for a vote. Although Connerly claims that his group has turned in about 500,000 signatures, the Michigan State Board of Canvassers will need to review their validity.
Civil rights groups decried Connerly's action.
"Ward Connerly's submission of these signatures is a part of his ongoing divisive and misguided effort to ban affirmative action programs that will deny women and minorities access to equal opportunity," said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
Connerly is best known as the businessman and former University of California regent who successfully led anti-affirmative ballot initiatives in California and Washington state in 1996 and 1998, respectively. His attempt to ban affirmative action in Michigan began soon after the U.S. Supreme Court, in June 2003, upheld the consideration of race as one of many factors in higher education admissions.
After losing a 2003 ballot initiative in California, Connerly shifted his attention to Michigan, where his campaign has been plagued with criticism, disorganization, and legal challenges.
MCRI originally wanted the initiative on the November 2004 ballot. However, several months before the election, a Michigan judge held that the anti-affirmative action initiative was "blatantly in direct conflict" with the Michigan Constitution and did not fully inform voters of its effect. Connerly eventually ended his efforts due to the court decision and his failure to garner the requisite number of signatures.
In the summer of 2004, Connerly restarted the signature-gathering process, but the campaign faced more criticism when reports showed that 100 percent of the funding for the Michigan ballot initiative came from outside of the state (see story).
While Michigan voters wait for the state to review the signatures, Citizens for a United Michigan (CFUM), a diverse coalition of mainstream Michigan organizations, said it will continue to educate voters about the benefits of affirmative action and equal opportunity programs. The coalition counts as members numerous women's groups, educators, businesses, faith-based organizations, labor rights groups, civil rights advocates, and others.
Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO Sr. Monica Kostielney, R.S.M, said religious groups around the state are opposed to Connerly's campaign.
"We know that intolerance is an unfortunate fact of American life. This proposal will take away tools that that have helped bring about fairness and diversity," she said.
The Michigan League of Women Voters President Anne Magoun highlighted that affirmative action has helped open the doors for women.
"Times have changed for the better thanks in part to affirmative action, but we haven't attained a society of equal opportunity in which people are valued not for the color of their skin or their gender, but for the content of their character and their contributions to society," she said. "Ward Connerly's plan is one that would revert to a society that accepts discrimination against women and people of color."
Advocates for equal opportunity and affirmative action in Michigan have said they will monitor the signature-reviewing process as it takes place.