A new interactive guide to the 2020 elections that will shape criminal justice
The general election is upon us. In fact, tens of millions of votes have already been cast. With anxieties understandably high about the presidential election, down-ballot races have perhaps gotten less love than usual. The Appeal: Political Report has focused all year on the local races that might challenge mass incarceration and advance criminal justice reform.
This week, we launched our annual interactive tool that will help you track the criminal justice battlegrounds in the 2020 elections. It will help you visualize and offer you access to our reporting and analyses of the most important DA and sheriff elections, referendums, and more.
You can also revisit my guides to the 30 most important prosecutor and sheriff elections, and to 12 state and local elections that may challenge ICE’s powers.
As the map makes clear, opportunities to upend the criminal legal system are uneven around the nation. Many states are not holding local elections at all; some are but drew very few candidates. But there are some hot spots that jump out where the landscape may be unrecognizable in a week.
Los Angeles County has the biggest stakes on the ballot next year. Voters there have to choose between district attorney candidates with starkly different visions for the office. They will also get to weigh in on three statewide ballot initiatives and a local referendum pertaining to criminal justice, and races for city- and county-level officials that have been debating decarceration.
Maricopa County is close behind. The nation’s fourth most-populous county will choose its next sheriff and prosecutor, with clear contrast in each race, and weigh in on an initiative to legalize marijuana. Should Democrats flip the state legislature, it may also open different horizons for reform legislation that have gone nowhere in recent years.
There are a select number of counties that, like Maricopa, are hosting both prosecutor and sheriff elections that have high stakes for reform. Pay attention to Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio, to Charleston County, South Carolina, and to Oakland County, Michigan. And don’t sleep on Georgia and Texas: These states are on everyone’s minds this week as Joe Biden’s presidential campaign makes an explicit play for their electoral votes. But many local elections are worth watching in each.