The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a voter education tool called Vote Smart Justice that the advocacy group says will help voters access information about thousands of candidates for Congress, governor, and state legislatures to see where they stand on criminal justice reform issues. The ACLU wants to push candidates to adopt platforms that embrace criminal justice reform.
The ACLU released a survey it said shows that 78 percent of likely voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports criminal justice reform, including 72 percent of Republicans. The survey said that 75 percent of likely voters, including 67 percent of white Republicans, are more likely to support candidates who pledge to reduce and speak out against racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Some 71 percent of likely voters want candidates who are committed to ending the war on drugs. On VoteSmartJustice.org, users may input their address to learn where candidates running for office in their district stand on criminal justice reform issues, based on their legislative voting records and public statements.
The ACLU already has taken part in prosecutorial elections. In St. Louis County, Mo., the group informed voters about the record and platforms of incumbent Bob McCulloch and his challenger, Wesley Bell. On August 7, the 27-year incumbent McCulloch was defeated by Bell, who ran on a criminal justice reform platform that included a pledge to end cash bail for low-level offenses and increase police accountability.
Similar voter education work has been taking place in Texas, California, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and in Massachusetts. The ACLU is campaigning for reducing the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.