Prop 16

a YES vote supports this constitutional amendment to repeal Proposition 209 (1996), which stated that the government and public institutions cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.
a NO vote opposes this constitutional amendment, thereby keeping Proposition 209 (1996), which stated that the government and public institutions cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.

Official Arguments (click ▸ to expand)

✅ Support

YES on Prop. 16 means EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL CALIFORNIANS. All of us deserve equal opportunities to thrive with fair wages, good jobs, and quality schools. Despite living in the most diverse state in the nation, white men are still overrepresented in positions of wealth and power in California. Although women, and especially women of color, are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, they are not rewarded for their sacrifices. Women should have the same chance of success as men. Today, nearly all public contracts, and the jobs that go with them, go to large companies run by older white men. White women make 80¢ on the dollar. The wage disparity is even worse for women of color and single moms. As a result, an elite few are able to hoard wealth instead of investing it back into communities. Prop. 16 opens up contracting opportunities for women and people of color. We know that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Yet, Main Street businesses owned by women and people of color lose over $1,100,000,000 in government contracts every year because of the current law. We need to support those small businesses, especially as we rebuild from COVID-19. Wealth will be invested back into our communities. YES on Prop. 16 helps rebuild California stronger with fair opportunities for all. YES on Prop. 16 means:

  • Supporting women and women of color who serve disproportionately as essential caregivers/frontline workers during COVID-19
  • Expanding access to solid wages, good jobs, and quality schools for all Californians, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity
  • Creating opportunities for women and people of color to receive public contracts that should be available to all of us
  • Improving access to quality education, both K–12 schools and higher education, for all of California’s kids
  • Taking action to prevent discrimination and ensure equal opportunity for all
  • Rebuilding an economy that treats everyone equally
  • Investing wealth back into our communities as opposed to continuing to allow the rich to get richer
  • Strong anti-discrimination laws remain in effect
  • Quotas are still prohibited

We live in the middle of an incredible historic moment. In 2020, we have seen an unprecedented number of Californians take action against systemic racism and voice their support for real change. At the same time, our shared values are under attack by the Trump administration's policies. We are seeing the rise of overt racism: white supremacists on the march, the daily demonization of Latino immigrants, Black people gunned-down in our streets, anti-Asian hate crimes on the rise, women’s rights under attack, and COVID-19 ravaging Native communities. By voting YES on Prop. 16, Californians can take action to push back against the Trump administration’s racist agenda. By voting YES on Prop. 16, Californians can take action to push back against racism and sexism and create a more just and fair state for all. Equal opportunity matters. Yes on Prop. 16. VoteYesOnProp16.org CAROL MOON GOLDBERG, President League of Women Voters of California THOMAS A. SAENZ, President Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund EVA PATERSON, President Equal Justice Society

🚫 Opposition

The California Legislature wants you to strike these precious words from 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 in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." Don’t do it! Vote NO. Those words—adopted by California voters in 1996 as Proposition 209—should remain firmly in place. Only by treating everyone equally can a state as brilliantly diverse as California be fair to everyone. REPEAL WOULD BE A STEP BACKWARD Discrimination of this kind is poisonous. It will divide us at a time we desperately need to unite. Politicians want to give preferential treatment to their favorites. They think they can "fix" past discrimination against racial minorities and women by discriminating against other racial minorities and men who are innocent of any wrongdoing. Punishing innocent people will only cause a never-ending cycle of resentment. The only way to stop discrimination is to stop discriminating. HELP THOSE WHO REALLY NEED IT Not every Asian American or white is advantaged. Not every Latino or black is disadvantaged. Our state has successful men and women of all races and ethnicities. Let's not perpetuate the stereotype that minorities and women can’t make it unless they get special preferences. At the same time, our state also has men and women—of all races and ethnicities—who could use a little extra break. Current law allows for "affirmative action" of this kind so long as it doesn't discriminate or give preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. For example, state universities can give a leg-up for students from low-income families or students who would be the first in their family to attend college. The state can help small businesses started by low-income individuals or favor low-income individuals for job opportunities. But if these words are stricken from our state Constitution, the University of California will again be free to give a wealthy lawyer's son a preference for admission over a farmworker’s daughter simply because he’s from an “under-represented” group. That’s unjust. GIVE TAXPAYERS A BREAK Prior to the passage of Proposition 209, California and many local governments maintained costly bureaucracies that required preferential treatment in public contracting based on a business owner’s race, sex or ethnicity. The lowest qualified bidder could be rejected. A careful, peer-reviewed study by a University of California economist found that CalTrans contracts governed by Proposition 209 saved 5.6% over non-209 contracts in the two-year period after it took effect. If the savings for other government contracts are anywhere near that, repealing this constitutional provision could cost taxpayers many BILLIONS of dollars. EQUAL RIGHTS ARE FUNDAMENTAL Prohibiting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin is a fundamental part of the American creed. It's there in our Constitution for all of us. . .now and for future generations. Don't throw it away. VOTE NO. WARD CONNERLY, President Californians for Equal Rights GAIL HERIOT, Professor of Law BETTY TOM CHU, Former California Constitution Revision Commissioner

✅ San Francisco Chronicle

"Nearly a quarter of a century ago, California voters passed the deceptively named California Civil Rights Initiative. But Proposition 209 was not about advancing civil rights. It was about prohibiting the consideration of race and gender in public education, employment and contracting. ... It was just about shutting the door on efforts to overcome those institutional barriers to the full participation of women and minorities. It was wrong in 1996, when it was passed by 55% of California voters, and it is wrong now. It should be repealed."

🤐 The San Diego Union-Tribune

No stance published.

✅ American Civil Liberties Union SoCal

"Vote to reinstate affirmative action in California.

Prop 16 would restore affirmative action in public education, public employment and public contracting after a nearly 25-year ban. Today in California, many people are currently discriminated against in getting state contracts, employment, pay, and education based on who they are or where they come from. Vote YES on Prop 16 to directly address systemic racism and gender discrimination and ensure everyone in California has equal access to good jobs, good wages, and quality schools."

✅ Los Angeles Times

"The death of George Floyd, yet another unarmed Black man killed by police, and the COVID-19 pandemic‘s disproportionate toll on Black and Latino Americans have been a wake-up call for this country. We must act to dismantle the racism baked into our institutions, and voting yes on Proposition 16 on Nov. 3 will help. ... If we want to live in a country that better reflects our national narrative of equal opportunity, we have to build it. That means using the right tools, such as affirmative action. Vote yes on Proposition 16."

✅ The Mercury News

"The events of this year have highlighted the level of racial injustice that exists across the nation, including California. The disparity between Black and Latino residents and their White counterparts is readily apparent when it comes to income, health, education and the criminal justice system. Reducing those disparities will require a major effort on multiple fronts. Proposition 16 would give the state’s universities and government a valuable tool they need to fight existing structural inequalities."

🚫 Orange County Register

"With or without Prop. 209, we can count on public institutions continuing to reflect the diversity of the state and continuing to provide opportunities to Californians of all backgrounds. California can continue to build on its reputation as a wonderfully diverse state without government judging people based on their race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. Ultimately, we don’t think the case has been made for scrapping Prop. 209 and the fundamental principle of treating all people on equal terms."

✅ The Desert Sun

"Though Proposition 16 only addresses elimination of Proposition 209’s constitutional language, which specifically addresses state and local public agency conduct, greater efforts to bring underrepresented people into all ranks and levels in the already highly diverse civil workplace and government contracting universe can only help to greater diversify and strengthen the ranks of the private sector. Giving those previously disadvantaged — due in large part to life circumstances often strongly determined by their race or gender — “a leg onto the ladder” in the public education and civil sector world will help them transition to other “ladders,” if they choose, in the private sector."

✅ California Democratic Party

"End the ban on affirmative action to level the playing field for women and communities of color."

🚫 Republican Party

"Creates Government Quotas for Employment, Contacting & Education

Prop 16 repeals a constitutional protection that ensures every Californian is treated equally and instead enacts government quotas for employment, contracting and education."