As the defeats of Propositions 16 and 17 this month dramatically showed, it is nearly impossible for a single entity -- no matter how well funded -- to persuade a majority of California voters to pass a ballot measure. Voters seem to want a sense that a proposal is supported by a broad-coalition of groups that they know and trust before they're willing to vote "yes" on anything.
In that regard, proponents of Proposition 19 -- the initiative to legalize, tax and regulate the possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana -- scored a coup today by securing the endorsement of the NAACP.
The endorsement was based largely on evidence that black youths are singled out for arrest under the state's existing marijuana laws. Proponents cited a study by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice that showed 62 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession in California last year were nonwhite.
As the proposition campaigns work over the summer to build coalitions, they know that the more established an organization is, the more value it will bring to their campaign. And if you're going to include a civil rights argument as part of your campaign, there's probably no better group to have on your side than the NAACP.