Group Sues to Keep Affirmative-Action Ban off Ariz. Ballot

Michael Kiefer, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), July 1, 2008v

A Michigan-based activist group filed suit Monday to knock down an effort to amend the Arizona Constitution and ban affirmative-action programs in the state.

The lawsuit claims that petition-signature gatherers for the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative violated election law with deceptively worded pitches that led potential signers to believe it would further the cause of civil rights, in some cases saying it would actually preserve affirmative action.

The suit asks the court to throw the initiative off the Nov. 4 ballot, assuming the initiative gets enough valid signatures. It was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on behalf of former Phoenix Councilman Calvin Goode and 12 other county voters.

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Thomas speaks up

County Attorney Andrew Thomas, honorary chairman for the initiative, calls the allegations groundless.

“It’s a frivolous lawsuit from a radical organization that is true to its name,” Thomas said.

That organization is the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, an acronym for the last four words.

The Arizona initiative has out-of-state roots as well, stemming from a 1996 California initiative spearheaded by former University of California Regent Ward Connerly whose organization has sponsored initiatives in several states.

Max McPhail, the initiative’s executive director, summed up the measure: “It’s very simple. To ban discrimination and end preferential treatment for people based on their race or their sex. . . . It doesn’t get more basic than that. Everyone in this state has a right to be treated equally by their government.”

According to campaign-finance reports filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, Connerly’s American Civil Rights Coalition has contributed at least $957,000 to the Arizona signature-gathering effort.

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The Goldwater Institute, a conservative local think tank, has criticized BAMN for what it calls harassing tactics to try to dissuade voters from signing the petitions, some of which have been the subject of YouTube videos.

Tactics defended

Driver responded: “We were exercising our free-speech rights and handing out fliers saying don’t sign for fraud, don’t sign for racism, don’t sign for something endorsed by the KKK.

“And we had uniform success where we were in stopping people from signing whether we were at a food store in a Black neighborhood or at a Diamondbacks game and it was largely White voters coming in.”

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According to McPhail, the Arizona initiative needs 230,047 certified signatures to get on the November ballot. He could not say how many it has gathered but said the group expects to file the petitions by Thursday’s deadline.

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