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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Californians Give Boost To Affirmative Action Foes

WASHINGTON -- Foes of affirmative action, making gains repeatedly in the Supreme Court but often stymied elsewhere in government, may have turned their political and legislative fortunes around in one giant step in Tuesday's election.

With a margin of nearly 750,000 votes out of 8.7 million cast, California voters approved Proposition 209 -- a sweeping assault on the use of race, sex or national origin as a basis for hiring and promotions in state and local government jobs, state college admissions, and public works and other government contracts.

Immediately, the measure drew dueling lawsuits: Liberal groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court to strike it down as unconstitutional, and the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation sued in state court to put it into effect immediately.

Despite the lawsuits and the fact that Proposition 209 would operate only in California, the measure is likely to have repercussions in politics and legislation -- perhaps sooner than any reaction to other ballot measures that gained voter approval Tuesday, including those on legalizing marijuana for medical use, imposing term limits, and on creating new rights for crime victims.

Proposition 209's political reverberations seem sure to be stronger than those in the wake of another controversial California ballot measure: the highly visible proposal to legalize marijuana as medicine for seriously ill persons. That and a similar measure passed in Arizona are likely to be blunted by threats of federal prosecution. A federal regulation bans such uses.

Elsewhere on ballot measures, the never-say-die commitment of those who want term limits imposed on members of Congress gained voter endorsement of a new approach in nine states. Success for that approach, however, will depend upon the outcome of a coming Arkansas test case in the Supreme Court.

The new tactic, already being dubbed the "scarlet letter'' measure, is to put an anti-term limits label on future ballots next to the name of any candidate who failed to work or take a pledge in favor of amending the U.S. Constitution to limit the terms of members of the House and Senate. A constitutional amendment is the only approach the Supreme Court has left open for that idea.

A potential constitutional amendment loomed in the background of another group of voter-approved referendums Tuesday -- those aimed at creating new legal rights for crime victims so that they may oversee and even have some influence over the prosecution of those who allegedly committed crimes against them.

Demonstrating how strong the crime victims movement can be politically, and thus sending a message to Congress about a future constitutional amendment, it gained voter approval for new state-level protection for victims in all eight states where that was on the ballot.

While many of the 89 voter-initiated ballot measures succeeded Tuesday, a controversial one went down to defeat in Colorado. A proposal to give parents veto power over sex education courses, abortions and other government actions that involve their children failed when voters said no by a decisive 58 percent to 42 percent difference.