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CA Prop 16: Affirmative Action

Proposition 16 is on the ballot to amend Proposition 209 from 1996 to legalize affirmative action in California.

CALIFORNIA, USA — Depending on who you ask, Proposition 16 is either about promoting affirmative action or undoing a legal guarantee of equal rights. 

Voting will come down to what you believe is the best way to address racial inequality. 

This proposition is on the ballot to amend the California constitution. 

In 1996 California voters passed Prop 209. Its language modeled from civil rights act, it put these words into our state constitution: 

“The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin...” 

California used to have affirmative action programs set up which gave preference to minorities and women in state hiring, the awarding of state contracts, and most famously admission to colleges. 

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Prop 209 made those programs illegal and one result was a drop in Black and Latino enrollment at the state’s elite public universities.  While Black and Latino students make up 60% of California’s high school enrollment, they totaled only 28% of the UC freshmen admitted in 2019.

Proposition 16 would reverse course and allow affirmative action to return to California.  

Supporters of Proposition 16 argue the state needs to award more opportunities to minorities and women as a way to correct for centuries of economic and political privilege falling primarily on white men. 

Opponents argue the ends don’t justify the mean and that if equality is the end goal then the most important thing is to keep equal treatment written into the law. 

Find more background about this proposition as well as opinions from both sides on the California Voter Guide or on your local voter guide.

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What does a YES vote on Prop 16 mean?

A yes vote would legalize affirmative action again in California. 

What does a NO vote on Prop 16 mean?

A no vote keeps the current ban against preference based on race and sex.

Original filing for Prop 16

View the original filing sent to the state.


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