A radical plan to fight Jeff Sessions. That’s what Politico calls the American Civil Liberties Union’s drive to increase voter turnout in today’s primary election for Philadelphia District Attorney. Canvassers including ex-prisoners are beta-testing the ACLU’s new national strategy, made possible by a highly competitive district attorney’s race. The eight-way Democratic primary, held on Tuesday, will fill one of the most powerful prosecutor’s jobs on the East Coast. The ACLU’s campaign to swing it is the first time the national office has invested in a local election. For years, the ACLU has relied on litigation and legal briefs to further its agenda.
Bolstered by a new spirit of activism and exploding membership numbers (thanks largely to President Trump), the ACLU is venturing into district attorney races to turn out its members and turn up the heat on candidates to take a stand on ACLU priorities like mass incarceration. Its primary weapons in this effort are former convicts, who are leading the canvassing effort that will target 11,000 ACLU members in Philadelphia and drive public resistance to overzealous prosecution practices. Today is act 1, scene 1 of the ACLU’s new localized plan, called the Smart Justice campaign, which was hatched back in October. The Smart Justice Campaign was made possible by a $50 million grant from George Soros. The campaign has just $185,000 to work with in Philadelphia, which covers canvassing, literature and social media.