Background on I-200

After California’s Proposition 209 passed, many wondered if it was a fluke or the beginning of a national movement against racial preferences and in favor of equal treatment.

The next major state battleground became Washington State, where a few key activists and leaders pushed for the Washington Legislature to approve a similar initiative.

After the Washington Legislature refused to deal with the issue, the Washington State Civil Rights Initiative (WSCRI) was born, and the grassroots nature of the movement shone once again.   Just as Prop. 209 was modeled after the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, WSCRI said “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.”   It would appear on the November 1998 state ballot as Initiative 200 (I-200).

The Washington State Republican Party overwhelmingly voted, 62-3, to endorse the initiative.   Meanwhile, the I-200 opponents roped in almost every Pacific Northwest Big Business powerhouse such as Microsoft, Boeing (before it moved its headquarters to Illinois), Kaiser, Weyerhaeuser, Hewlett Packard, US Bank, Starbucks, Costco and Eddie Bauer. Pro-preference forces also recruited the largest newspaper in the state, The Seattle Times, whose publisher donated $215,000 in free anti-WSCRI full-page ads that ran for two months.   Add to that mix, the vocal and active opposition of a popular sitting governor.   Was the result pre-ordained when proponents were outspent by a 4-1 margin?   If money and organization trumped ideas and principles, perhaps.

On November 3, 1998, Washington voters overwhelmingly approved I-200 by a resounding 58%-42%.