Prop 16: Opportunity for All

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Affirmative action in state hiring, contracting, and education was banned in California by Prop 209 in 1996. Prop 16 will reverse that ban and allow schools and public institutions to take race, ethnicity, color, national origin, and gender into consideration when admitting students to colleges, hiring employees for public jobs, and selecting contractors for public projects. Equal opportunity programs are a time-tested way to fight systemic racism and gender discrimination by leveling the playing field and giving everyone a chance at good public jobs and wages and quality public schools. Prop 16 provides all Californians a fair opportunity in education,  employment, and contracting.

Vote YES on Prop 16

League Analysis: 

The League is a proponent of Prop 16, an initiative that will repeal Prop 209. In 1996, the League signed ballot arguments against Prop 209, which effectively banned equal opportunity programs – sometimes referred to as affirmative action programs – in public education, employment, and contracting. Each of these areas has since suffered a marked drop in representation of women and people who are Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian American, and other people of color.

Without equal opportunity programs, schools and public institutions cannot take race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, or other factors into consideration when admitting students to colleges, hiring employees for public jobs, and selecting contractors for public projects. This prevents decisionmakers from getting a full picture of an applicant and their qualifications, which often puts women and people of color at a disadvantage.

In the brief time since its passage, Prop 209 has had far reaching negative consequences. Since 1996, there has been a 12 percent drop in enrollment of students from underrepresented groups across the University of California system. In turn, this caused further declines in college graduation rates, graduate school admission and completion rates, and average wages for underrepresented Californians.

Similarly, public sector jobs have become less attainable for certain groups since the passage of Prop 209. In particular, men and women of color remain underrepresented, especially when it comes to getting top management positions. During the same time period, women and minority-owned businesses lost billions of dollars annually in public contracts.

Prop 209 is a failed experiment. It is time to repeal it by passing Prop 16.


We believe that everyone—Black, Latino, Asian American, White, Native American, man, woman, or non-binary—deserves a fair shot at success. But right now, people are discriminated against based on who they are and where they come from. We support Prop 16 because it is a chance for our public institutions to reinvest in diverse communities. Our government shares the responsibility to provide equality of opportunity in education, employment, and other areas. Prop 16 will make quality education and robust careers accessible and attainable for more Californians.

Prop 16 won’t allow quotas for college admissions. Quotas are and will remain illegal if Prop 16 passes. It also won’t allow discrimination in any form. California has some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the nation, none of which will be altered by Prop 16.

Since the passage of Prop 209, California has not become a more equitable state.  In many ways we have regressed. The nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations have surfaced the fact that discrimination and inequity are still deeply ingrained in our institutions. At the same time, the pandemic and its economic repercussions disproportionately impact people of color and other historically marginalized communities. With Prop 16, we will restore an important tool to ensure an equitable recovery, confront racism and unfairness in our state, and empower the next generation of students, public servants, and entrepreneurs.

Paid for by League of Women Voters Supporting Schools and Communities First – Yes on Prop 15 (Nonprofit 501(c)(4))