Ref 88 and Eyman’s Footprints

It is time to revalue diversity in public institutions in the State of Washington by voting YES on Referendum Measure No. 88 on the November ballot. YES on R-88 allows public institutions to once again consider applicant characteristics [1] without using them as the “sole or deciding” factor and without using quotas. A YES vote on R-88 partly repudiates the initiative that was Tim Eyman’s start in 1998 (I-200). Let me explain.

R-88 is one part of an ongoing and mostly partisan argument over affirmative action, “…a set of laws, policies, guidelines and administrative practices ‘intended to end and correct the effects of a specific form of discrimination’.” The roots of the argument in favor of affirmative action go back to attempts starting in the 1940s, and, later, in the civil rights movement, to redress the glaring unevenness of the playing field between the races. Affirmative action has widened to include other groups sidelined in society by virtue of characteristics other than race.

In the last fifty years Republican/Libertarian think tanks have framed an argument that turns affirmative action on its head, making it a partisan issue. Any affirmative consideration of an individual of one group is cast as inevitably discriminating against members of another group (implying a zero-sum game). According to this framing, considering a prospective student or public employee who is black for admission or hire with any preference whatsoever inevitably discriminates against students of, for example, asian heritage. Using people of asian heritage in this framing conveniently takes the spotlight off of white conservatives, the folks mostly pushing the argument. (Notice, of course, that ridding the world of affirmative action is an issue that curries favor with the white supremacist wing of the Republican Party.)

Nine states have at some time banned affirmative action as part of this movement. It started with California (Prop 209) and Texas in 1996, followed by Washington (I-200) in 1998. I-200 was the first initiative put forward by Tim Eyman, a conservative activist known for pushing the Republican/Libertarian agenda in Washington State with a series of more than twenty initiatives and referenda.

In 1998 Eyman’s I-200 “prohibited public institutions from discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the areas of public education, public employment, and public contracting.” For nearly twenty years that prohibition prevented Washington State public institutions from using any form of affirmative action in its admissions or hiring practices.

In early 2019 nearly four hundred thousand signatures were turned in for I-1000, an Initiative to the Legislature. (To be distinguished from an Initiative to the People.) I-1000 sought to adjust the details of Eyman’s I-200 to allow consideration of applicant characteristics [1] as factors in admissions, hiring, and contracting without using quotas and without using those characteristics as the “sole or deciding” factor in the decision making process. Tim Eyman, of course, filed a challenge to the ballot title of I-1000.

But here’s where things get a bit convoluted. As an initiative to the legislature in Washington State, I-1000 first went to the legislature, where, to the surprise of many, it passed the Washington State House and Senate on almost strictly party line votes (Democrats For, Republicans Against) on April 28, 2019. (Had I-1000 not passed the legislature it would have appeared as I-1000 on the 2019 November ballot as an initiative to the legislature that the legislature had ignored.)

Ordinarily, passage of I-1000 by the legislature would have been the end of it. Instead, and tellingly, a group called Washington Asians for Equality (and others) gathered signatures to effectively put I-1000 on the November ballot–but as R-88, an unusual demand “by the people” that a law passed by the legislature be submitted for a vote. (Such a referendum requires half the signatures to get on the ballot that either type of initiative [to the People or to the Legislature] requires.)

Bottom line, a YES vote for R-88 is a YES vote for allowing public institutions to take applicant characteristics and the community goal of diversity into consideration once again.

Jim Camden tried to explain the confusion around R-88 in a Spokesman article on September 27. He had some limited success. You might want to read Mr. Camden with what you’ve just read here as background.(The label on the heading photo for Camden’s article reads, “Referendum 200, on ballots in November,…” makes the confusion worse. They meant Referendum 88.)

All of which brings me back to Tim Eyman. Mr. Eyman’s hand is evident in every measure on the first page and two measures on the second page of every Washington State 2019 General Election ballot this November. See [2] below for details. Mr. Eyman is not building with his initiatives, he is tearing down. For his destructive efforts he is lauded by Republicans for whom shrinking government by successive woundings and hamstringings is a Party goal. Like Mr. Trump, when challenged for his practices, he poses as the victim. His political action committee is “Permanent Offense;” his manner is permanent offensiveness. It is remarkable the corrosive effect one man can produce with twenty years of encouraged, funded effort. For more detail on Eyman I recommend a visit to “Permanent Defense” at,

Reject Eyman and his tactics. Vote YES on Referendum Measure No. 88 and NO on Initiative Measure No. 976.

Keep to the high ground,

[1] The whole list is: “an individual’s race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, sensory, mental or physical disability, or veteran or military status”
[2] Referendum Measure No. 88 is rooted in Eyman’s first Initiative, I-200, as explained above. Initiative 976 is Eyman’s most current insult. See my last post. All of the advisory votes that litter the first page of the ballot and spill over onto the second page are the result of Eyman’s I-960, passed in 2007 and declared partly unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court in 2013.