The American Civil Liberties Union this week announced the launch of a new voter education tool, VoteSmartJustice.org, that will elevate criminal justice reform issues during the midterm elections and arm voters with the information they need to make informed decisions at the ballot box. The website is a first-of-its-kind tool that allows users to access information about thousands of candidates for Congress, governor, and state legislature to see where they stand on criminal justice reform issues.
Vote Smart Justice 2018 is a non-partisan project to educate Americans on where candidates for office stand on criminal justice reform and mass incarceration. It is a component of the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice’s electoral work to educate voters about the role of elected politicians in the creation and maintenance of mass incarceration, and to push candidates to adopt platforms that embrace criminal justice reform.
In conjunction with the launch of VoteSmartJustice.org, the ACLU also released new public opinion polling today that demonstrates consensus support for criminal justice reform across the ideological spectrum.
The research, conducted by David Binder Research between August 23 and September 8, 2018, found that 78 percent of likely voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports criminal justice reform, including 72 percent of Republicans. It also found 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. Finally, 71 percent of likely voters want candidates who are committed to ending the war on drugs.
“Criminal justice reform is on the midterm ballot, and voters are ready to elect candidates who reject tough-on-crime politics and embrace criminal justice reform,” said Udi Ofer, director of the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice. “Voters are ready to move on from the costly, ineffective, and discriminatory incarceration policies of old. They want to elect candidates who embrace smart justice platforms and are committed to ending our nation’s mass incarceration crisis. This includes sentencing and drug law reform, as well as police accountability and racial justice.”
On VoteSmartJustice.org, users will be able to input their address to learn about where candidates running for office in their district stand on criminal justice reform issues, based on their legislative voting records and public statements. Voters will be able to access information on whether candidates are supportive or opposed to reforms in a variety of issues, including bail reform, drug law reform, unfair sentencing laws, parole laws, and policing. For candidates with no public record, users will be encouraged to contact the candidate directly.
The website also provides information on how users can volunteer and get involved in Smart Justice campaign work happening in their state.
Through Vote Smart Justice 2018, the ACLU has already engaged in deep voter education work around prosecutorial elections across the country to help voters understand the power and influence that their local district attorney holds over decisions related to the criminal justice system.
In the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney race, the ACLU engaged in an aggressive voter education effort that included the launch of radio and digital ads and a voter outreach operation that knocked on 2,500 doors and made over 15,000 calls to inform voters about the record and platforms of the incumbent Bob McCulloch and his challenger, Wesley Bell. On August 7, in a historic upset, 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, where the ACLU organized a first-of-its kind debate among Boston district attorney candidates in the city jail.
The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system. We are working in all 50 states for reforms to usher in a new era of justice in America. The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice is fighting in the legislatures, the courts, and in the streets to end mass incarceration.
For more information about the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice: https://www.aclu.org/SmartJustice