- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California voters firmly rejected a ballot initiative yesterday that would have banned state and local governments from tracking race in everything from preschools to police work.

Opponents of Proposition 54 had attacked it as a blow against antidiscrimination policies, while backers said it was a leap toward a colorblind society.

With 3 percent of precincts reporting, 677,891 voters, or 56 percent, were against Proposition 54, while 530,517, or 44 percent, favored the measure. Early absentee ballots also were running against the measure, by 57 percent to 42 percent.

Proposition 54’s chief proponent, Ward Connerly, said that last night’s planned “victory party” would better be dubbed a wake.

The proposition would have banned the collection or analysis of racial information in public education, contracting and employment. It would have been the first of its kind in the nation.

Voters also turned back a second initiative, Proposition 53, which would eventually steer 3 percent of each year’s state budget into a fund to fix roads, bridges and sewage plants. With 3 percent of precincts reporting, 799,241 of voters, or 66 percent, rejected the proposition, while 421,179, or 34 percent, supported it.

Propositions that allocate chunks of the state budget to specific causes have had mixed success, and critics of Proposition 53 said it would drain money from health care, education and other state programs.

The measure did receive a late infusion of cash from American Indian tribes. They supported the measure with a $1.5 million TV advertising blitz in the campaign’s final days.

California’s past dabblings in direct democracy have seen voters revolt against taxes and doom bilingual education and racial preferences. Often, precedents set here find their way to other states.

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