There is so much at stake this November. Our civil liberties are on the line in races up and down the ballot. The ACLU of Arizona is invested in one local race in particular, the race for Maricopa County Attorney. The county attorney is your county’s top prosecutor. County attorneys hold tremendous power in the criminal legal system, deciding what charges people face or whether they’ll face charges at all. For decades, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has fueled rapid growth in the state prison population by needlessly sending people to prison when drug or mental health treatment would make more sense. In this election, voters have the power to choose a county attorney who can safely and effectively reduce the prison population and challenge racism within the criminal legal system.
There are two candidates running: Julie Gunnigle and Allister Adel. The ACLU of Arizona does not endorse or oppose candidates, but we do want voters to cast an informed vote.
Here are just three key issues to consider when making your decision.
Reproductive Freedom If Roe v. Wade is overturned, outdated laws that are still on the books in Arizona could make abortion illegal. If this happens, your county attorney could decide to charge people with crimes for seeking abortions, or they could commit to not prosecuting people for their health care decisions. In a Primary Election Questionnaire, we asked Maricopa County Attorney candidates Julie Gunnigle and Allister Adel: "Will you commit to not prosecuting a person seeking or a doctor performing an abortion if Roe is overturned?" Here’s what they said: Gunnigle: “I will not prosecute abortion in our state. Were Roe v. Wade to fall, it is not just abortion, it is also the sale of contraceptives that will be criminalized. I have seen how the criminal law involves itself in the personal decisions of whether and when to become a parent, and I am committed that Arizona will not follow this path." Adel: “As Maricopa County Attorney, I have an ethical and legal obligation to enforce the law, regardless of how I may feel personally about it." Read full candidate questionnaires at www.smartjusticeaz.org/mcao2020
Police Accountability When a police officer in Maricopa County is accused of killing or hurting someone, the county attorney’s office investigates and determines whether the officer should be charged with a crime. In eight years, there have been 600 police shootings statewide. County attorneys cleared every officer of wrongdoing except one. In a General Election Questionnaire, we asked the candidates: "Will you pledge to ensure police are hold police accountable by ensuring special prosecutors investigate police shootings and allegations of serious police misconduct?" Here’s what they said: Gunnigle: “This is a day one priority. There is an undeniable conflict of interest between prosecutors and police by virtue of their close working relationship. I will create an independent and community involved unit to take on these cases and hold police accountable.” Adel: Allister Adel did not respond to the General Election Questionnaire.
The Criminalization of Marijuana
Arizona is the only state where any amount of marijuana can land you with a felony that stays on your record forever. And, when prosecuted by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Latinx people charged with personal marijuana possession spend an average of two months longer behind bars than white people charged with the exact same crime. In a General Election Questionnaire, we asked the candidates: "Will you pledge to end all prosecutions of personal marijuana possession, a criminal charge that disparately impacts people of color?" Here’s what they said: Gunnigle: “This is a day one priority.” Adel: Allister Adel did not respond to the General Election Questionnaire. Prop. 207 will also be on your ballot this November. It’s an initiative to legalize marijuana endorsed by the ACLU of Arizona. If it passes, Prop. 207 will give people with past marijuana convictions an opportunity to clear their criminal records as long as the county attorney does not oppose their petition. In a General Election Questionnaire, we asked the candidates: "Will you pledge to clear old marijuana possession convictions from people’s records by supporting all eligible petitions for expungement of past marijuana convictions if it becomes possible under Prop. 207?" Here’s what they said: Gunnigle: "As County Attorney, I will do everything possible to support people seeking to expunge old marijuana possession convictions under the Smart and Safe Act and give folks a real second chance." Adel: Allister Adel did not respond to the General Election Questionnaire. The ACLU of Arizona does not endorse or oppose candidates. Regardless of who is elected, we will continue to hold the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office accountable for the harm it has inflicted on our communities for decades. We will continue pushing for the county attorney to reimagine how our society approaches public safety. We will continue building power on the ground with people directly impacted by the decisions county attorneys make every day. Early voting begins Oct. 7. The last recommended day to mail back your ballot is Oct. 27, or drop it off at any polling location by Nov. 3. More voting information can be found at www.beballotready.vote.
To volunteer with the ACLU of Arizona, visit www.smartjusticeaz.org/get-involved.