On Monday, election officials announced that a recall effort against progressive Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón had failed to collect enough valid voter signatures to appear on the November ballot.
Criminal justice reform advocates won a major victory with the initiative’s failure to recall Gascón in the middle of his first term, dealing a major blow to police unions and conservative groups that have opposed efforts to reduce mass incarceration and hold officers accountable for misconduct.
The Los Angeles County Registrar reported that 195,783 of the recall campaign’s submitted signatures were invalid, meaning the campaign needed 46,800 more valid signatures in order to appear on the ballot. You need 566,857 valid voter signatures to make the ballot.
A recall of Gascón was attempted for the second time, the first time last year also failing to garner enough signatures. Gascón is in charge of the largest US prosecutor’s office and ran for office advocating for changes to the criminal justice system. Gascón’s victory in Los Angeles comes two months after progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin was voted out of office.
As part of a growing movement to elect prosecutors committed to reforming the criminal justice system that has made the United States a global leader in incarceration, Gascón has emerged as a leading figure.
Cristine Soto DeBerry, executive director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California, a group that supports reform, said in a statement on Monday, “Los Angeles’ criminal justice reform movement has prevailed because this is a community that prefers facts over misplaced fear.” After yet another failed recall attempt, we can only hope that those who are against reform will finally start paying attention to the evidence, the science, and the future instead of continuing to cling to outdated methods.
We are reviewing the registrar’s response and considering all options,” said a spokesperson for the recall campaign, declining to provide any further comment at this time. As Gascón put it in a tweet, “Grateful to move forward from this attempted political power grab – rest assured LA county, the work hasn’t stopped.” My top priorities have always been and will always be ensuring our safety and establishing a fair legal system for all.
In 2020, Gascón, a former San Francisco police chief and district attorney, defeated the sitting prosecutor in Los Angeles on a platform of opposition to the death penalty, the elimination of gang enhancements in sentencing, the reopening of cases involving police killings, and the end of the practice of prosecuting juveniles as adults.
The district attorney has made it known that he is working to end cash bail for nonviolent felonies, divert certain low-level offenses away from the system, and decrease “excessive prison time.” In addition, he brought two extremely unusual criminal cases against police officers: one for assault for shooting and injuring a man experiencing a mental health crisis, and the other for manslaughter for killing an unarmed man.
There has been an immediate backlash against Gascón from police groups, the LA county sheriff, conservative media, and some Angelenos who are worried about an increase in gun violence and homicides due to the pandemic.
The assault of a young girl and the murder of a prominent philanthropist have put the district attorney under intense scrutiny since he took office.
Gascón’s efforts to reduce harsh sentencing have been met with criticism from a number of quarters, including law enforcement unions, who claim that they are facilitating violence. His supporters and academics point out that even California jurisdictions with traditional “tough on crime” punishments are seeing similar or worse upticks in crime, so there is no evidence his reform policies are causing a surge in violence. In most cases, district attorneys can only choose which cases to file and which charges to pursue, so their influence on the underlying causes of crime is limited. According to data compiled by the Los Angeles Times, in Gascón’s first year in office, he filed nearly the same number of felony cases as his predecessor.
According to the union representing the deputy DAs, which is strongly opposed to Gascón, the vast majority of prosecutors in the office voted in favor of the recall in February.
An official position of the recall campaign was that it was non-partisan. A report from the Los Angeles Times in June noted that the recall spokesperson had previously worked for both the Trump campaign and Larry Elder, the rightwing radio host who ran against California’s democratic governor last year. These two conservative mega-donors accounted for nearly a quarter of the recall campaign’s publicly disclosed funding.
Similarly, Smart Justice California’s executive director Anne Irwin released a statement on Monday praising the news of the failed recall, in which she said, “Fueled by Republican mega-donors, police unions, and others ideologically opposed to reform, the campaign followed a familiar pattern of using misinformation, fear-mongering, and the politicization of tragedies to scapegoat district attorney George Gascón… Angelenos saw through these disingenuous tacks
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