Woman Alleging Voter Fraud a Prominent Diversity Activist

Face the State (Colorado), April 14, 2008

A Face The State investigation has revealed that one of the individuals alleging voter fraud against a campaign devoted to ending racial and gender preferences is a longtime liberal activist with ties to multiple organizations promoting such policies.

On April Fool’s Day, Dara Burwell spoke at a widely covered Capitol press conference, alleging that she was misled into signing a petition in support of Amendment 46, the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative, an effort certified for the November general election ballot by Secretary of State Mike Coffman, and one that seeks to abolish the use of gender and race preferences in government, education, and public hiring decisions.

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Burwell is alleging fraud based on the fact that the young black man who approached her for support of the initiative said it would help minorities. She maintains that he was being deceitful because he didn’t indicate that the initiative would explicitly ban race and gender preferences in state government.

“Given what he said, the language of the petition and also our shared experience as black people in this country, I believed myself to be signing a pro-affirmative action measure,” she told the Rocky Mountain News. “I signed the petition, handed it back to him and in turn he gave me a flier to a hip-hop event—which I felt was further confirmation of that recognition of shared experience.”

As FTS has learned, however, Burwell is very knowledgeable about diversity issues in Colorado, having been a leader in the state’s pro-Affirmative Action movement. A 2004 “Focus on Diversity” newsletter, published by the University of Colorado’s Office of Diversity and Equity, recognized Burwell as “an advocate of underrepresented communities, and for her work with the WRC [Women’s Resource Center] and the University of Colorado Student Union.” In 2003, she was named a CU “Equity & Excellence Award” recipient.

In 2006, Burwell served as a spokeswoman for 9to5, the “National Association of Working Women,” advocating a raise to Colorado’s minimum wage. She is now employed by Sixth Sun Consulting, a Denver firm that specializes in diversity training, according to its web site. The firm has a motto of “Internal Revolution. Organization Evolution.” Specific services advertised include “anti-oppression consulting and training,” “Reiki Energy Work,” “Transformative Coaching,” and “Enneagram Instruction.”

When asked by FTS how someone so knowledgeable about race and gender-related issues could be tricked into signing the initiative, Burwell said she “didn’t associate that [ballot] language with terminating any equal opportunity programs.” Burwell believes programs specifically designed for women and minorities are desirable because “we’re dealing with a lot of inequity in this society . . . that ‘non-discrimination’ clause would only work if we lived in an equal society.”

According to CCRI’s backers, its language would not abolish race-neutral outreach programs, and they maintain that programs promoting opportunity and access to state services would not be affected by Amendment 46’s passage. Only those programs granting an advantage based on race, sex, or other immutable characteristics would be prohibited.

“Any equal opportunity or Affirmative Action program that doesn’t include race or gender preferences will continue, as they have in all other states where similar initiatives have been passed by voters,” said Jennifer Gratz, director of state initiatives for the American Civil Rights Coalition. ACRI has successfully pursued voter-backed initiatives to abolish race and gender preferences in California, Washington, and Michigan. In addition, former Gov. Jeb Bush’s “One Florida” executive order had the same effect on state law, there.

Still, Burwell maintains that “eliminating race-preference programs is discriminatory because we people of color, women, etc., are not on an equal playing level with the people most privileged in society.”

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