Election 2020

Voters Demanded More Accountability From Prosecutors and Police on Election Night

A reformer ousted the incumbent district attorney of L.A. County, and several major cities voted to create police oversight boards.


Criminal justice reform advocates continued to make gains at the local level in the 2020 election, as progressive candidates in several major cities won elections for district attorneys and voters in other cities passed measures strengthening civilian oversight of police departments.

Over the past several election cycles, a wave of well-funded progressive candidates have run for prosecutor offices in major cities, turning what were once sleepy races into hotly contested battles over criminal justice reform. That trend continued on Tuesday night.

In what was perhaps most significant of the local prosecutor races, Los Angeles County, George Gascon beat incumbent District Attorney Jackie Lacey 54 to 46 percent. Lacey was criticized by Black Lives Matter activists for failing to prosecute fatal police shootings. Gascon, the former San Francisco County district attorney, has promised to re-open investigations of police killings, focus on rehabilitation and drug treatment over incarceration, and not seek the death penalty. He will now be the chief prosecutor of the most populous county in America.

"I think that this has been a campaign that has been driven by passion, by an honest commitment to reimagine our criminal justice system, moving away from punishment," Gascon told ABC7. "It's really about redemption."

Voters in Austin, Texas, and Orlando, Florida also elected two former defense attorneys to be their top prosecutors, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, a retired judge running on a reform platform was elected district attorney. The current Honolulu prosecutor is on paid leave amid an FBI investigation.

Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx, one of the first reform candidates to take over a major prosecutor's office in 2016, cruised to reelection.

Meanwhile, the race for New Orleans District Attorney will go to a run-off between two candidates who have both pledged to reform the office, to differing degrees. The Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office became a high-priority target for criminal justice reformers after 12-year incumbent D.A. Leon Cannizzaro announced that he would not seek reelection. Cannizzaro's office is currently fighting an ACLU lawsuit over its practice of sending fake subpoenas to crime witnesses and victims. His office once used a habitual offender enhancement to get a man convicted of stealing a candy bar sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

Challengers failed to knock off incumbent prosecutors in other jurisdictions, though. In Cincinnati, pro-death penalty Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters secured a seventh term in office. In Charleston, South Carolina, Ben Pogue, who campaigned against mass incarceration, failed to unseat the incumbent prosecutor in the race for Ninth Circuit Solicitor.

Several major cities also approved ballot measures to create civilian oversight panels to monitor and investigate police misconduct allegations. San Francisco voters appear to have overwhelmingly passed a measure to create a Sheriff's Department Oversight Board and an inspector general's office to review misconduct and in-custody deaths.

Voters in Portland, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio, also approved ballot measures to create new police oversight panels by significant margins: 80 percent and 74 percent, respectively.

San Diego appears to be on its way to passing a measure that will dissolve the city's current police review board and create a new Commission on Police Practices. 

And in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, initiatives to create and strengthen civilian police oversights panels, respectively, appear to be passing as well.

Results for reformers in the many notable state ballot initiatives involving criminal justice issues were positive, overall. Of nine state ballot initiatives legalizing or decriminalizing various drugs, not a single one failed. As Reason's Jacob Sullum noted, if recreational marijuana legalization can pass in a deep-red state like South Dakota, it's a sign that drug prohibition may collapse sooner than expected.

California rejected an initiative to reform its cash bail system, but approved another to restore voting rights to those on parole. Oklahoma voters soundly defeated a ballot initiative that would have prevented prosecutors from using a defendant's previous non-violent felonies to seek sentence enhancements.

Taylor Pendergrass, a deputy director at the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported the Oklahoma initiative, attributed the loss to "fear-mongering and outright misinformation" and said that the ACLU and other groups "will be taking this fight to the legislature and continue our work to end mass incarceration in Oklahoma for many years to come." 

On the whole, though, American voters continued to reject drug prohibition and demand more accountability from the criminal justice system.

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  1. “Over the past several election cycles, a wave of well-funded progressive candidates have run for prosecutor offices in major cities, turning what were once sleepy races into hotly contested battles over criminal justice reform. That trend continued on Tuesday night.”

    “well-funded”? Well, then, do you know who funded them?

    1. Why Cal…that would require actual journalism. You know, some basic investigation, like an internet search or phone calls. Clearly, Unreason copy writers cannot be bothered with such things.

      Like Unreason would actually want to know….?

      1. Vox Light only investigates Twitter feeds. Except for Nancy in Portland…

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      2. Koch’s new partner, George Soros…

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    2. I can give a hint. Rhymes with Borge Boros.

      We will see the usual litany of idiocy that his preferred pets generate and idiots like this writer will claim it is anti-semitic to notice how much his preferences fuck society up royally.

    3. Yeah, I wonder? I mean who would support this? Not some of the up to 10% of the population who claims they participated in the protests…that couldn’t be it.


      You’re out of sync with America.

      1. They don’t have any money bro.

        Nice that you came out of hiding.

        1. You are accusing a lot of people of hiding today. Maybe try bringing a cogent argument instead? Or just staying quiet if you can’t do that?

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  2. Reason is siding with the corrupt lying anti cop left. I guess they figure it’s the only way they stick around.

    1. Hypothetically, Kamala Harris stops you on suspicion of drug dealing. She frisks your groin area and states that there exists an object of unknown origin. She asks you to consent to a strip search to identify the unknown object. Do you consent and let her hands tenderly caress your body while she upholds the laws created to wage a “war on drugs”?

  3. Wisconsin declared for Biden. Nevada most likely will remain Biden’s, so if Michigan gets done, it’s over.

    1. Not my President. If only we had a Lee Harvey Oswald available…

      1. Un-American scumbag.

        1. I agree that Biden and Harris are that. Maybe they’ll travel to Portland and antifa will get as confused as, well, Biden.

          It would be a hoot, that’s for sure.

      2. And here damikesc goes full Nardz.

        1. Don’t think we didn’t see you hiding lile a bitch until things broke your way too.

        2. You’re an active threat to freedom, chemjeff.

      3. Think bigger, Damikesc.

    2. Wisconsin is less than 1%, so recount is forthcoming. I see MI Democrats are working hard to get over the 1% threshold and NOT have a recount…

      I still believe AZ will tighten and likely get a recount, as well.

      This might take a week to figure out, even if PA, NC and GA are called Trump with no recount.

      1. It looks like there is still almost a million votes missing from Philly. PA will end up going for Biden, I think.

        1. Gee, more votes just weirdly turning up for a Democrat. My, that never happens.

          Might be time to withdraw our consent to be governed by these corrupt shits.

          Hopefully, Wuhan flu will get Biden soon enough.

          1. It is historically accurate – – – –
            LBJ in 1948

            “The runoff vote count, handled by the Democratic State Central Committee, took a week. Johnson was announced the winner by 87 votes out of 988,295, an extremely narrow margin of victory. However, Johnson’s victory was based on 200 “patently fraudulent” ballots reported six days after the election from Box 13 in Jim Wells County, in an area dominated by political boss George Parr. The added names were in alphabetical order and written with the same pen and handwriting, following at the end of the list of voters. Some of the persons in this part of the list insisted that they had not voted that day.”

            It is just that they use statistical analysis and computers today instead of a car trunk.

  4. ” . . . moving away from punishment . . . ”

    Say what?

    1. LTBF, I speak Lefty. Let me translate.

      They mean to release violent criminals in the name of social justice. This is for several reasons:
      1) To reduce the population’s trust in civic institutions like the police and courts;
      2) To punish ideological enemies and people who fail to see the wisdom of contributing to the Party;
      3) And to foster an atmosphere of violence that will encourage a violent pushback, which will then allow for increased repression by the central government.

      The whole point of which is to weaken the United States sufficiently that its middle classes, and the country’s leadership as a whole, will no longer impede the globalist movement to a “Great Reset.”

      Any questions?

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  6. Now Reason plays the role of useful idiot by giving credence to the claims made by neo-Marxist revolutionaries against cops.


  8. Sure, the totalitarians are totes going to make positive reforms.
    Keep it up, idiots.

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  10. In this context, ‘reform’ means ‘stop prosecuting actual criminals for actual crimes.’
    It made Kim Foxx a popular household name among the robbers and bangers. She knows who she’s working for.

  11. You can’t mention his name on Fox, as Newt Gingrich found out recently, but George Soros is behind many of the city races for liberal DAs. Just like the “Disruptor” paid for the boats from Africa to Europe, the Guatemalans to the Border and supported Antifa. He wants to use his fortune to “change America” to his vision. No Thank You, George.

  12. Civilian Review Boards are not a result of rejection it is the Democratic plan to defund the police and exercise power to declaw them. These are what Portland, Seattle, and San Fran did and now have done in Phoenix with 3 million from the Covid money. It’s a playbook. Democrats run on giving and taking money away and regulations with interference. The idea of real reform never enters into it. The same city councils clap like seals when they are walked through the training centers showing military training and equipment in case those Trumpsters every seem behind the curtain.

    Defund may not have been their words they wanted, but the budget for police is set, and when they want to implement their equity policies they have to take the money from somewhere. The police have been off-limits, but not anymore. Take no joy in a few changes they are rolling ahead.

  13. This is absolutely horrible news. “Progressive” DAs are the reason cities like Portland, Chicago, Seattle, and St. Louis allowed the rioting to go on as long as they did. LA FINALLY stopped being a shitshow, and now they are going to turn around and undo every bit of gain we made regarding crime. I get wanting to dial back victimless crimes, but progressives don’t stop there, and people should be protected from having their personal property taken from them and from being accosted on the streets.

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