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California voters failed to repeal ban on affirmative action. What signal does that send the rest of the nation?

Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY |

Proposition 16 would have removed the ban in the California Constitution on considering race and sex in government hiring and education. In other words, it would have reinstated a practice called affirmative action, most notably at the state’s public colleges.

Colleges, saying diversity is important to their educational climate and mission, try to find ways to consider race as part of admissions. The Supreme Court upheld their approaches.

“Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission,” the court said in a 4-3 decision in 2016 written by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in 2018.

Despite the courts’ evolution on affirmative action, California voters’ views on the subject are nearly unchanged over the past 25 years. The ban on affirmative action was first approved by 54% of registered Californians via Proposition 209 in 1996. 

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