Backers of Anti-Affirmative Action Initiative Fail Signature Drive in Missouri

Missourians won a major victory in the fight for fairness and equal opportunity on May 6 when the so-called Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (MoCRI) failed to qualify for the November ballot, the ACLU announced in the press release issued yesterday.

One of a series of ballot proposals California businessman Ward Connerly has spearheaded across the country, the MoCRI aimed to eliminate affirmative action programs that help to open doors to opportunity for countless people of color and women across the state.  The defeat of the MoCRI affirms what recent polls have shown: that a strong majority of Americans – 70% according to The Pew Research Center – support affirmative action.

“Today’s victory shows that, when held up to public scrutiny, Connerly’s initiative can’t pass muster,” said Brenda Jones, Executive Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.  “The citizens of Missouri have a firm commitment to equality, and have demonstrated that commitment by refusing to fall for Connerly’s tricks.”

As the May 4 deadline to submit signatures loomed, Connerly and his allies engaged in questionable tactics, including tricking voters into signing their petitions, in a desperate attempt to collect the roughly 140,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.  And when Secretary of State Robin Carnahan revised the MoCRI’s ballot language to make voters aware of its impact on affirmative action, Connerly and his allies sued her.

The ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of Secretary of State Carnahan and joined with WeCAN MO – a coalition of faith groups, community and labor organizations, students, and businesspeople – to educate voters about the true intent of the MoCRI.

“Trying to push through an initiative voters don’t understand is not true democracy,” said Brenda Jones.  “When equal opportunity and the civil rights of our citizens are at stake, it is critically important that the electoral process be fair, transparent and honest.”

The defeat of the MoCRI comes on the heels of another Connerly defeat in Oklahoma, where he and his allies last month moved to withdraw their so-called Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative (OKCRI) after a group of concerned citizens, represented by the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, filed a lawsuit challenging OKCRI’s fraudulent signature-gathering tactics.

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