Oklahoma Approves Ballot Question Banning Affirmative Action

On Election Day, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 759, banning affirmative action measures in state government hiring, public contracting, and higher education. The measure passed by a vote of 59 to 41 percent and amends the state constitution to prohibit any consideration of race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin by the state government.

Equal opportunity initiatives expand access to educational and professional opportunities for qualified minorities, women, and members of other underrepresented communities. Oklahoma’s State Question 759 was pushed by Ward Connerly, a California businessman and former University of California regent, who has long opposed equal opportunity initiatives. He has been the primary force behind similar measures that have passed in California, Arizona, Nebraska, Washington, and Michigan.

Connerly attempted to get an anti-equal opportunity question on the ballot in Oklahoma in 2008, but withdrew it after it was revealed he and supporters used voter fraud and other deceptive practices to collect signatures in support of their initiatives. Following that defeat, the state’s Republican legislature passed a bill last year that sent the proposal directly to the 2012 ballot.