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Offical Voter Info Guide Cal Statewide Special Election 10-7-2003
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Ballot Measure Summary

Proposition 53

Proposition 54
  Arguments and Rebuttals
  Text of Proposed Law


"What is your race?"
African-American? Mexican-American? Asian-American? White? Native American? Or, the mysterious "Other?"

If you're like most Californians, you're getting tired of that question.
Californians are the most racially and ethnically diverse people in the world—and we are proud of it. We are also among the most independent; and we resent being classified, categorized, divided and subdivided based on our skin color and the origin of our ancestors.

When you're asked to check a government form with row after row of these rigid and silly little "race" boxes, have you ever just wanted to say, "None of your business; now leave me alone"? Proposition 54 seeks to eliminate racial categorization, by the government, in all areas except medicine, health care and law enforcement.

The advocates of racial categorization maintain that you have no right to privacy concerning your ancestry and racial background. They see no problem if your employer or school officials label you AGAINST YOUR WILL—often without even telling you—or charge you with "racial fraud" if their "racial" definitions are different from yours.

Dare we forget the lessons of history?

Classification systems were invented to keep certain groups "in their place" and to deny them full rights. These schemes were not invented by the Civil Rights movement! They are anathema to it. In fact, former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once said, "Distinctions by race are so evil, so arbitrary and invidious that a state bound to defend the equal protection of the laws must not involve them in any public sphere."

Throughout history, government-imposed racial classifications have been used to divide people. They have been used to set people against each other. The slave owners and segregationists of the American past knew it; the Nazis knew it when they labeled European Jews a separate and inferior "race"; American judges knew it when they had to determine if Asians or part-Asians were white or non-white for the purposes of naturalization. Now, the advocates of racial categorization tell us that government-imposed racial categories will somehow yield the very opposite of what they were originally intended to do! They insult our intelligence!

The unrelenting, daily racial categorization of people by the government is one of the most divisive forces in American society. It is constantly emphasizing our minor differences, in opposition to our better instincts that tell us to seek our common interests and common values.

It's time for a change!

The government should stop categorizing its citizens by color and ancestry, and create a society in which our children and grandchildren can just think of themselves as Americans and individuals.

The colorblind ideal—judging others by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin—is more than a dream in California; it is central to the definition of who we are as a people, because, in California, we don't just dream; we do what others dream of doing.

Vote "YES" on Proposition 54 (!

WARD CONNERLY, University of California Regent


JOE HICKS, Human Relations Consultant


We all want a color-blind society. But we also want health care we can count on. The way Proposition 54 is written, it takes away information your doctor needs to fight the spread of disease and prevent illness.

Health information banned by Proposition 54 is currently used to fight cancer, heart disease, diabetes, the spread of infectious diseases, and other illnesses that affect all Californians in every part of the State.

Supporters of Proposition 54 claim that there is an exemption for "medical research subjects and patients." But, there are dozens of ways we collect important health data not covered by this "exemption." Data banned by Proposition 54 includes information from death and birth certificates, hospital and laboratory reports, and disease tracking tools such as the cancer registry. Eliminating information will make it harder to stop preventable disease outbreaks, premature death, and disability.

That is why the California Medical Association, the American Heart Association, Breast Cancer Action, the California Primary Care Association, California Healthcare Association, the California Association of Family Physicians and 40 other leading health authorities oppose Proposition 54.

This initiative will not lead to a color-blind society, but it will endanger the health of every Californian. Proposition 54 will make it unconstitutional to use information to save lives.

Who do you trust for information about your health? The American Academy of Pediatrics or the paid political professionals who are selling this initiative?

Vote No on Proposition 54. It is bad for our State, bad for our health. (

League of Women Voters of California

JOHN C. LEWIN, M.D., Chief Executive Officer
California Medical Association

MOLLY COYE, M.D., Former Director
Department of Health Services, Wilson Administration



Proposition 54 is bad for health care, bad for public safety and bad for education. To understand why, you have to read the words of the initiative closely. It begins by banning the gathering of information "by race, ethnicity, color or national origin in the operation of public education, public contracting or public employment." Then it expands the ban to "any other state operations." The ban on gathering information is broad. It includes "separating, sorting or organizing data by race, ethnicity, color or national origin." Amending the Constitution is a serious step that should not be taken lightly.

It doesn't make sense to ban information. The data is used for very important purposes.

  • We use this information to identify groups at risk for infectious disease. If there is an outbreak of disease in one group, we have to be able to identify and contain it before it spreads to the general population.
  • The so-called "medical exemption" only allows doctors to keep racial or ethnic data on their patients, but it does not allow us to use population data to prevent diseases. The California Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, California Healthcare Association and the California Association of Public Hospitals all oppose Proposition 54.
  • The data tell us that white women are diagnosed with breast cancer at a higher rate. Asian-Americans are at higher risk for Hepatitis-B. Latinos are more likely to die from complications of diabetes. African-Americans die from heart disease at a higher rate. This information saves lives. The American Heart Association, Breast Cancer Action, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California and some 40 other health organizations oppose this initiative.
  • The exemption for law enforcement is poorly written. According to the Attorney General, the initiative will hurt efforts to prevent "Hate Crimes." Under Proposition 54, the State Department of Justice could no longer require local police to collect data on victims and suspects. That data can help solve crimes. Law enforcement groups, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Asian Law Alliance oppose Proposition 54.
  • The California Public School Accountability Act is designed to make sure that children reach standards of learning regardless of race or ethnicity. Proposition 54 reduces accountability in our schools by letting school administrators off the hook when they fail to close the achievement gap. The California State PTA, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, the University of California and State Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell all oppose this initiative.
  • It is already against the law in California to give preferential treatment in jobs, contracting and college admissions based on race or ethnicity. We all want to live in a color-blind society. But we won't get there by banning information.

Proposition 54 was rushed onto the ballot. This Constitutional amendment is poorly written and threatens our health, safety and education. We urge you to vote NO on Proposition 54.

League of Women Voters of California

JOHN C. LEWIN, M.D., Chief Executive Officer
California Medical Association

Kaiser Permanente


Proposition 54 states plainly and unconditionally that: "Medical research subjects and patients shall be exempt [from the initiative]."

In addition, the independent California Legislative Analyst's Office asserts that: "...state and local agencies collect a variety of public health information through the use of surveys of the public which may include race-related information. It appears that this activity could continue under the measure's medical research exception."

This interpretation is exactly what the proponents of Proposition 54 intended.

Why are proponents of racial categorization so desperate to preserve this idiotic practice of dividing us by skin color and last names that they would misrepresent the initiative in an attempt to scare voters? And, if they deceive about something as simple as this, can you believe anything they say?

The American people are so "mixed" that our lives may actually be put at risk by attempts to match health care and medicines with race. According to world-renowned geneticists Susanne Haga and J. Craig Venter, "applying antiquated [race] labels to the... interpretation of scientific data could result in misleading and biologically meaningless conclusions... greater genetic variation exists within groups than among them."

Proponents of racial categorization say they want a color-blind society, but then they fabricate every obstacle imaginable to prevent us from getting there.

Proposition 54 was carefully drafted by some of the best legal minds in the country to demand that government begin to see us as Americans, not as a bunch of hyphenated "races."



DR. MARYROSE CONSIGLIO, Statewide Vice Chair
Proposition 54

KOGO San Diego

Arguments printed on this page are the opinions of the authors and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency.

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Copyright © 2003 California Secretary of State