Gov. Jay Inslee and former governors Dan Evans, Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire all have backed Initiative 1000. It would undo what state voters did in 1998 when they outlawed affirmative action.
Supporters of an initiative that would re-legalize affirmative action in Washington state say they’ve collected enough petition signatures to send their measure to the Legislature this year.
The Initiative 1000 campaign last Friday submitted more than 387,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office, said Jesse Wineberry, a former state lawmaker working on the campaign. About 260,000 valid signatures are required to qualify an initiative.
In an interview, Wineberry said the measure has “really resonated with people,” particularly younger voters.
Erich Ebel, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kim Wyman, said the office would have a final count of I-1000 signatures later this month.
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I-1000 could set a record for signatures backing an initiative to the Legislature. The current record-holder is Initiative 940, the police-training and deadly force measure that garnered nearly 360,000 signatures in 2017.
With an initiative to the Legislature, lawmakers can approve the measure or send it to the voters. If I-1000 qualifies, it could be approved during the legislative session that starts Monday or could be sent to the November ballot.
Community activists launched the I-1000 campaign at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle in August. Former governors Dan Evans, Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire backed the measure in October, and Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement in support last week, pledging to “make it a priority to have (I-1000) passed by the Legislature in the upcoming session.”
I-1000 would change state law to allow the government to use “affirmative action that does not constitute preferential treatment” to remedy discrimination in public employment, education and contracting against veterans and historically disadvantaged groups, such as women, people with disabilities and people of color.
The measure would define affirmative action as providing equal opportunities through recruitment, hiring, outreach, training, goal-setting and other methods designed to increase diversity. It would define preferential treatment as selecting a less-qualified candidate based solely on a characteristic such as race or gender.
I-1000 is aimed at negating Initiative 200, a measure approved by Washington voters in 1998 that banned the government from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to people and groups based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.
“We know systemic inequities remain that cause communities of color, veterans, people with disabilities and women to face persistent barriers to work and education opportunities,” Inslee said.
“I-1000 is a well-considered approach to updating our state’s policies and ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in government contracts, employment and schools.”
Tim Eyman, the anti-tax crusader and serial initiative filer who sponsored I-200, has spoken out against I-1000. And Washington Asians for Equality, which opposes I-1000, plans to hold a news conference Friday calling on the Legislature to send the measure to the ballot.
I-1000 is “designed to replace ‘equality for all’ with ‘equality for some’ when young people apply for jobs or college admission,” the coalition said in a statement Thursday. “We view it as a serious threat to the Asian American community throughout Washington and the principle of equality under the law.”
Though I-1000 would nix one of Eyman’s measures, the I-1000 campaign hired signature gatherers through the company that Eyman also uses, Citizen Solutions LLC.
The campaign — which has raised about $137,000 and spent about $13,400, according to its most recent filings — owes Citizen Solutions about $456,000 for that work.
I-1000 supporters thought twice about using Citizen Solutions, which state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has accused of taking part in a scheme to conceal campaign money the company funneled to Eyman, said Wineberry.
But Citizen Solutions agreed to charge less per signature than other companies, including those regularly used by Democrats, and agreed to a delayed-payment plan, Wineberry said. Citizen Solutions didn’t work on I-200, he said.
“The progressive companies wanted $150,000 up front,” Wineberry said. “They were asking something ridiculous, like $6 to $12 per signature.”