Proposition 54 Defeated
California voters on Tuesday defeated Proposition 54 by a wide margin, the Contra Costa Times reports (Sturrock, Contra Costa Times, 10/7). Proposition 54, also known as the Racial Privacy Initiative, would have prevented California government agencies and schools from collecting racial and ethnic data but would have allowed exemptions in instances involving some medical research data, convicted criminals or crime suspects and occasions in which the federal government requires racial data (California Healthline, 10/7). With 99.2% of precincts reporting, 64.1% of voters opposed the initiative while 35.9% voted for it (Sacramento Bee, 10/7). About 75% of black and Hispanics and about 66% of whites voted against the initiative, according to early precinct reports (Sacramento Bee, 10/7). Proponents of the measure faced an "uphill battle" against "well-funded, well-organized opposition" from groups including public health researchers, as well as "an avalanche of media attention" on the recall election that distracted voters from the measure, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 10/8). While the initiative's author, University of California Regent Ward Connerly, and other supporters raised $214,000 to promote Proposition 54, a coalition of health care professionals, labor unions, civil rights advocates, teachers and American Indian tribes who opposed the measure raised $9.3 million to defeat it (Magagnini, Sacramento Bee, 10/8).
Connerly said Tuesday that he accepted in July that the measure likely would be defeated when it became clear that the measure would be included on the recall ballot instead of the March 2004 primary ballot. "It's very tough when you've got an 80-day campaign coming five months sooner than you expected," he said. "I think the language of Proposition 54 was a little convoluted, a little flawed, particularly on the health issue," Connerly said, adding that questions about the extent of the medical research exemption were "our Achilles' heel" (Trounson/Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 10/8). Connerly noted that the measure's language was "drafted by attorneys, not health professionals" (Sacramento Bee, 10/8). He added that the initiative's opponents "very, very effectively raised doubts about the health issue," and said that he will reintroduce a revised measure in a few years (Schevitz, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/8). Before the vote, Connerly announced that he will work with some of the measure's opponents to rewrite confusing language regarding the health research exemption. California Medical Association CEO Dr. Jack Lewin, who debated Connerly on the initiative last week, has agreed to meet with Connerly to discuss provisions to protect health care that could be added to a revised measure (California Healthline, 10/7).
Gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D), who led the campaign against Proposition 54, said, "Californians heard the message that Proposition 54 was bad for health care, bad for education and bad for public safety " (Gorman, Reuters, 10/8). Despite his defeat in the gubernatorial election, Bustamante said the "victory on Proposition 54" was "something to celebrate" (AP/Albany Times Union, 10/8). In his concession speech Tuesday night, Gov. Gray Davis (D) thanked voters "for having the wisdom to defeat Proposition 54" (Reuters, 10/8). NPR's "Morning Edition" on Wednesday interviewed Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University-Sacramento, about the defeat of Proposition 54 (Montagne, "Morning Edition," NPR, 10/8). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.