Anti-Preference Campaign Plows Ahead on Election Day: Overshadowed by Battle over Controversial Immigration Law, Anti-Affirmative-Action Ballot Initiative in Arizona Goes Unchallenged

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A ballot initiative to end affirmative action in Arizona has been overshadowed by other state issues, and its opposition has lost much of its funding and steam, a situation that appears to be paving the way for an easy victory next month for anti-preference champion Ward Connerly.

"My sense is we'll win and win handily," Connerly said in a telephone interview during an October campaign swing through the state, hastening to add there are still some unknowns. "Arizona is really spread out and we're not doing much polling. The one imponderable is early voting. I don't know how that plays out."

When Arizona voters go to the polls Nov. 2, they will have heard little opposition to the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, a proposed amendment to the Arizona constitution formally known as Proposition 107. The amendment would ban all race and gender preferences by state government agencies. Modeled after similar Connerly-backed measures adopted over the past decade in California, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington, the Arizona measure would restrict a range of race and gender-focused programs, including those that affect state hiring, college scholarships and vendor purchasing programs.

Political analyst David Berman, professor emeritus of political science and a senior research fellow at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, says that the proposed amendment "seems likely to pass because conservatives will go to the polls here in unusually large numbers," but that Hispanic voting is likely to remain historically low.

Connerly's proposal is unpopular among Hispanics, Arizona's largest minority, Berman says, adding, "there is some hope on the part of opponents that it might prompt more Hispanic voters to turn out. But polls suggest neither the issue nor concern about the state's illegal immigration law will have much of an effect on the level of Hispanic voting."

Connerly failed to get on the state's 2008 ballot after opponents challenged the validity of signatures on his ballot petitions in Arizona, Oklahoma and several other states. This year, he bypassed the citizen's petition route and worked with the state's largely conservative Legislature, which voted to put the measure before voters.

While still an issue of prime concern nationally among traditional civil rights activists, Connerly's Arizona initiative has fallen lower on Arizona's political radar this year. The little-contested ballot measure has been trumped, his opponents say, by the state's racially charged debate over clamping down on undocumented immigrants. The legality of a new state measure giving local police broad powers to enforce immigration law is being challenged in federal court as a function to be conducted only by the federal government.

"SB1070 (the state's immigration control law) has overshadowed everything in this state," says state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. In 2008, Sinema was coordinator of Protect Arizona's Freedom, a broad-based coalition that opposed Connerly's anti-affirmative-action initiative in Arizona that included the American Association of University Women, the Urban League and NAACP. …