As criminal justice debates continue to dominate national discussions and the 2020 presidential race, a number of states have voter initiatives pertaining to criminal justice policy on their statewide ballots this year.
The national conversation has encompassed a range of issues like ‘defunding’ police by shifting resources and responsibilities to alternative crisis interventions, police reforms on qualified immunity, asset forfeiture, militarization, and accountability, as well as decriminalizing minor offenses, making sentencing reforms and prison reforms, and much more.
Most of the voter initiatives on various state ballots were not driven by recent events and do not address police reform. Instead, they primarily reflect what criminal justice reformers thought possible last year when they started the process to put these measures on their respective ballots.
The Reason Foundation has engaged in criminal justice and police reform issues for decades. The organization’s goal has always been to ground the justice system in achieving justice, not furthering state power for its own sake or advancing moral judgments on how inherently good, or bad, people are. We focus on evidence-based policies and practices that protect people’s liberties, rights, property, and lives and deliver measurable results.
Some of the major criminal justice reform initiatives include a measure in Kentucky, where voters will decide on a victim’s rights amendment. In Michigan, voters will consider requiring search warrants for police to access a person’s electronic data. Oklahoma voters will decide whether to change how past convictions are used to determine a newly convicted person’s sentence. And in Utah and Nebraska voters will decide if prisons can require inmates to work if they don’t volunteer to do so.
Kentucky Ballot Initiative Analysis: Amendment 1 — Adds Marsy’s Law, a set of victims’ rights, to the Kentucky Constitution.
Michigan Ballot Initiative Analysis: Proposal 2 — Requires a search warrant to access a person’s electronic data.
Nebraska Ballot Initiative Analysis: Amendment 1 — Repeals language in the state constitution allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishments.
Utah Ballot Initiative Analysis: Amendment C — Repeals language in the state constitution allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishments.
Oklahoma Ballot Initiative Analysis: State Question 805 — Prohibits a convicted person’s former felony convictions from being used to calculate future punishments.
California Ballot Initiative Analysis: Proposition 17 — Restores the right to vote for people convicted of felonies who are on parole.
California Ballot Initiative Analysis: Proposition 20 — Implements changes to criminal sentencing charges, prison release policies, and DNA collection.
California Ballot Initiative Analysis: Proposition 25 — Allows voters to approve or overturn the state’s decision to replace cash bail with a risk assessment system.