By Nicole Kief, State Strategist for the  ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, and Selene Kaye, Advocacy Coordinator for the  ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

California millionaire Ward  Connerly and his so-called "American Civil Rights Institute" are trying to pull  a fast one on the voting public, but local ACLUs and their allies are working  to preserve the integrity of the democratic process.

In  five states across the country, Connerly is advancing  the interests of the big construction companies for whom he lobbies by  introducing ballot initiatives that would end affirmative action in public  education, contracting and employment, including programs that level the  playing field for women- and minority-owned businesses. His tactics are to misappropriate the  terminology of the real civil rights  movement by telling voters they can end race- and gender-based "discrimination"  and to conceal the fact that his initiatives would end the affirmative action  programs that truly promote equal opportunity.  Connerly and his allies have not merely failed to inform  voters of the purpose and effects of their initiatives, but have gone so  far as to describe their petitions as supporting the very programs they  seek to abolish.

In  addition to deliberately misleading voters about the intentions of his anti-equal  opportunity initiatives, Connerly pays professional petition circulators who  engage in a variety of fraudulent practices to collect enough signatures to  place these initiatives on the ballot. As  if it weren’t undemocratic enough to mislead voters, Connerly’s folks appear to  be blatantly fabricating voters. The  signatures collected to support the Oklahoma  version of the initiative, for instance, were found by the Oklahoma Secretary  of State to have serious irregularities, including circulators signing their  own petitions multiple times and numerous duplicate names and addresses. In response, the ACLU of Oklahoma teamed up  with other civil rights advocates, political leaders and business leaders to file  a protest before the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the validity of the  signatures, sending a clear message that Oklahoma voters will not allow Connerly to  corrupt their political process.

In  Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri , Nebraska and Arizona,  advocates are working to bring the truth about Connerly’s motives and tactics  to their fellow citizens. Whether or not  voters support affirmative action, they have a right to know what it is that  they are voting on, and should be wary of Connerly’s attempts to fool them.

To  learn more about the importance of affirmative action, visit: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/aa. To check out more of the ACLU’s work on  women’s rights, visit: www.aclu.org/womenshistory.

Originally posted to ACLU on Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 09:38 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.