Affirmative action opponents turn in referendum signatures

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Opponents of an effort to restore affirmative action in Washington state say they have gathered enough signatures to force a popular vote on a measure that was approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

The Referendum 88 campaign turned in nearly 177,000 signatures Wednesday and say that they will turn in roughly 20,000 more through Saturday’s deadline. State officials say it will take up to two weeks to scan the petition sheets, verify the number of signatures and determine if they have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Affirmative action has been illegal in Washington since a separate initiative, I-200, was approved by voters in 1998. The measure approved by the Legislature — which would prohibit quotas but would allow state agencies and schools to consider factors like race in hiring, and engage in targeted outreach and recruitment — was set to take effect Sunday but is now on hold.