California voters considered three criminal justice-related ballot measures Tuesday, including one that would end the practice of requiring many defendants to post cash bail as a condition of leaving jail before trial.
While millions of votes have yet to be tallied, the outcome of the three ballot measures will have a significant impact on California’s decade-long criminal justice reform efforts.
Proposition 25, which would end the use of money bail in California, is a referendum on a 2018 law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown. It would replace money bail with a computer algorithm-assisted risk assessment model to determine who’s released from jail.
The measure was failing throughout the evening, with 54.4% of 9.9 million votes recorded as of 10:25 p.m. trending against the initiative.
“We were so glad to see record levels of voter participation in this election, and we are very pleased with the results reported so far,” said Mike Gatto, spokesman for the No on Prop 25 Campaign. “While votes remain to be counted, we’re confident that voters understand that Prop 25 is unfair, unsafe, and costly, with diverse opposition from all ends of the political spectrum. Like everyone else, we’re monitoring the results for updates.”
Another criminal justice initiative, Proposition 17, would restore the voting franchise to people who have finished serving their prison sentence. Supporters argue that having voting rights restored makes a person less likely to commit future crimes. Opponents argue that it’s tantamount to letting criminals vote and that it denies justice to crime victims.
The initiative was passing by a wide margin on Tuesday, with 59.9% of 10.2 million voters approving the measure.
The Associated Press called a defeat for Proposition 20, which would have rolled back some of the voter-approved initiatives of the past decade that generally lightened criminal sentences, including Propositions 47 and 57. As of 10:30, 61.8% of 9.9 million votes recorded were in opposition to the measure.
The ballot measure would have turned some theft offenses into potential felonies and made it more difficult for certain incarcerated people to get early release and would crack down on repeat probation violators.
Prop. 20 was supported by a coalition of law enforcement, retail representatives and victims rights groups, who argue that the previous reforms of Prop. 47 and 57 led to unintended consequences such as a rise of thefts in the state.
The ballot measure was opposed by civil rights groups as well as some victims rights organizations and some district attorneys, who argued that that the ballot measure would undo decades worth of criminal justice reform efforts.
The bail referendum, Prop. 25, had support from California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Democratic Party, argue that cash bail props up a system of racial disparity. They argue that eliminating cash bail will be a move toward a more equitable justice system.
Opponents of Proposition 25 include the bail industry, which views the ballot measure as an existential thread, but also certain civil rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Equal Justice Now.
These latter groups contend that the new system created by Prop. 25 would disproportionately affect people of color because the risk assessment model that would be used is inherently biased. They say that it could result in people being held in jail without any chance of release.
Under the current system, when someone is arrested, a judge determines bail based on the alleged crime, the person’s criminal history and the judge’s perception of whether the person will make court dates. Judges rely on a bail schedule that sets a dollar amount that a person must produce before being released based on the crime alleged.
As this amount can often be in the thousands of dollars, people often turn to bail bondsmen, who typically charge 10% of the bail amount, non-refundable, and who are responsible for the defendant appearing at court hearings.