On the ballot: Referendum 88

October 1, 2019

Neighborhood House is a multicultural agency working to disrupt the forces of poverty, inequality,
and injustice. This monthly column is intended to promote awareness of equity issues in our region
and in our work.

This month, we’re providing an overview of a measure that Washington voters will decide on in
the upcoming 2019 elections.

What is Referendum 88?

You may have been hearing the terms Referendum 88 and Initiative 1000.
Referendum 88 will be on ballots on November 5 for all voters in our state. The results will determine
whether or not a new affirmative action law called I-1000 will go into effect.

In 1998, Washington voters chose to ban affirmative action under a law called I-200. This means
the state is prohibited from using characteristics such as race and sex as a factor in selecting
qualified applicants for public employment, education, and contracting. As a result, Washington
has not been able to take steps to address historic disparities in opportunities for underrepresented
groups.

Initiative 1000, or I-1000, was introduced to overturn I-200 and to allow affirmative action again.
I-1000 defines affirmative action as using certain characteristics as contributing factors when
considering a qualified person for public education, public contracting or public employment opportunities
when “under-representation of disadvantaged groups is documented in a valid disparity
study or proven in a court of law.” These characteristics include race, sex, color, ethnicity, and
national origin. Sexual orientation, age, disability, and veteran status are characteristics that
were added by I-1000.

Under I-1000, preferential treatment is still prohibited. Preferential treatment is defined as using
certain characteristics as the only factor for selecting a lesser-qualified candidate over another.

What does this all mean?

Washington is one of only a few states in the U.S. that have laws banning affirmative action.

Voting yes on Referendum 88 approves I-1000 and brings affirmative action back to Washington.

Voting no on Referendum 88 blocks I-1000, restricting the state from implementing affirmative
action.