Ten 2020 Ballot Issues on Criminal Justice

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Politico reports on ten issues this year that could have a major impact on criminal justice policy. Glynn County, where Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging, may dissolve its police department. Among 2,000 prosecutor and sheriff elections, perhaps the biggest is in Los Angeles County, where tough-on-crime Jackie Lacey, the first female and first black D.A., is challenged from the left by George Gascón, former San Francisco district attorney. In Maricopa County, Az., former sheriff Joe Arpaio, famous for his no-mercy approach to law enforcement, is running again at 88, hoping that voters are worried enough about immigration and crime that they want him back. In Kansas, prison population rose under all-Republican leadership, but a Democratic governor could move for criminal justice reform if Democrats can win one or both legislative chambers.The 13th Amendment abolished slavery “except as a punishment for crime.” More than 20 states have similar provisions. Nebraska and Utah voters will decide whether to amend their constitutions, and Minnesota lawmakers may put it on the ballot.

Cash bail is a major target of reformers, who argue that the pretrial detention system is deeply damaging. California legislators voted to abolish cash bail, but bail bond companies got enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Eleven states have legalized recreational marijuana use. New Jersey and South Dakota vote this fall. Oregon will vote on decriminalizing natural psychedelics, including “magic mushrooms.”  Most states have victims’ rights laws, but a stronger version, Marsy’s Law, is so popular that more than a dozen states have adopted it. Kentucky votes in November. Oklahoma until recently had the world’s highest incarceration rate. Reformers want a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban sentence enhancements, which increase punishment for people who already have a felony record.

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