Give California Voters Some Credit

Regarding the Dec. 5 opinion-page article, "Proponents of Prop. 209 Misled California Voters": While it is not clear what the Monitor's position is on Proposition 209 [the California Civil Rights Initiative], it is certainly clear that a newspaper ought to investigate what it publishes before it lets writers give the impression that voters are illiterate, misinformed, confused, and unable to vote their preferences. Forgetting the nearly 50 percent of voters who cast their vote by not going to the polls last November and concentrating on those voters who endured all the media hype about Prop. 209, read the ballot book sent by the government to all registered voters, and engaged in conversations at work, in the universities, and at social gatherings before voting, it seems impossible to believe that the voice of two professors could be selected to speak out for a half page about how stupid we California voters are.

If we have illiterate voters who erroneously voted on behalf of this proposition, we must have had illiterate voters who voted against it - but who's counting?

If you want to poll other Americans about Prop. 209, why not publish it as written and placed on the ballot and let your readers decide for themselves how illiterate one has to be to vote in California.

C.M. Hollis

Novato, Calif.

The authors draw far-reaching conclusions from a Field poll claim that 17 percent of the proposition's supporters allegedly did not understand its implications for race-based affirmative action. Curiously, the authors neglect to mention that nearly twice as many (33 percent) of the initiative's opponents did not understand the measure, according to the same Nov. 4 Field poll.

Boris Slutsky

La Jolla, Calif.

The authors deplore the omission of the words "affirmative action" in the title of the measure. As a California voter, and one who strongly opposed Prop. 209, I agree that Prop. 209 was not exactly a referendum on affirmative action. But I do not agree that "yes" votes on Prop. 209 thought they were voting "yes" on affirmative action. How can a person vote either "yes" or "no" on affirmative action when that phrase covers such a multitude of individual programs, differing so markedly from one another? In my view, it was just as well not to blur the issue by including the words "affirmative action" in the title and summary of the measure.

It was discouraging to me, however, that in the public discourse preceding the election, both proponents and opponents so rarely pinned down what they were talking about. They never talked about specific programs, never searched for agreement even on basic facts - so necessary before trying to reach conclusions. There are some situations in which race must clearly be taken into account. There are others in which those who conscientiously administer public policy need some "wiggle room" for discretionary judgments. Prop. 209 makes all of this impossible.

Fred Hoblit

Studio City, Calif.

The wording and intent of Prop. 209 were quite clear - even without the phrase "affirmative action." Also, the initiative had prolonged, high-profile exposure before the election. It is, therefore, hard to believe that any literate, informed voter could have misconstrued its purpose.

Many who argue against quotas favor a kind of affirmative action based on need, not race. Unfortunately, the current system has become warped to the point that racial classification - a practice that the civil rights movement first sought to end - is now the main criterion.

Furthermore, it is hard to see how Prop. 209 could be found unconstitutional, since the Constitution does not mandate special treatment on the basis of skin color.

The action of the federal judge who blocked CCRI's implementation shows how the political left seeks to get its way via the courts after losing at the ballot box. It's one more argument for term limits for judges.

Jim Hastings

Traverse City, Mich.

Letters must include your address. All are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail (200 words max.) to OPED@CSPS.COM.

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