OLYMPIA — A Thurston County Superior Court judge dismissed a challenge Thursday by the Initiative 1000 campaign contending that affirmative-action opponents are making false claims about the new law in voter-pamphlet language for the Nov. 5 election.
I-1000, which the Washington Legislature passed this past spring, restores affirmative action after a 20-year voter-approved prohibition on the practice.
Opponents of affirmative action this summer gathered enough signatures to put the new law on the November ballot as Referendum 88.
The I-1000 campaign brought Thursday’s challenge, contending the Referendum 88 campaign included misleading and false descriptions of the new law in the pamphlet that will be mailed to voters before the election, such as saying the law would harm veterans and reinstate racial quotas.
The defendants include members of the Referendum 88 campaign, which creates its statements for the voter pamphlet.
In Thursday’s hearing, an attorney for the I-1000 campaign pointed to the ballot language that describes the new law, saying it “would allow the state to implement affirmative action in public education, employment, and contracting if the action does not use quotas or preferential treatment.”
The Referendum 88 campaign is arguing, however, that the new law allows preferential treatment and would also end preferences for veterans.
Judge James Dixon on Thursday afternoon dismissed the lawsuit, saying that Washington law regarding defamation challenges to voter pamphlets focuses on how it applies to candidates, not people working on ballot-measure campaigns.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman was also named in the lawsuit because her office must print and distribute the voter pamphlets before the general election.
The hearing comes as part of what could be a bitter fall campaign over issues of race and equity.
I-1000 authorizes the state to use affirmative action in public education, employment and contracting, provided neither quotas nor preferential treatment is used.
The new law also establishes a commission on equity, diversity and inclusion to make sure state agencies comply.
As an initiative to the Legislature, I-1000 would have gone to the November ballot if lawmakers hadn’t taken action on it.