Government Leaders Must Meet Voters’ Demands for Justice with Meaningful Change

Nicholas Turner President & Director
Nov 19, 2020

Black voters played a pivotal role in this election, which President-elect Biden acknowledged during his acceptance speech, promising to have their backs. There is no doubt that these voters see justice reform as a top priority.

The Vera Institute of Justice—in partnership with Latino Decisions, the African American Research Collaborative, Asian American Decisions, and the National Congress of American Indians—participated in the American Election Eve (AEE) Poll to learn more about the vote choices and views of thousands of voters nationwide, especially voters of color and voters in battleground states.

From the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color—especially in jails and prisons—to police violence targeting and killing Black people, to the unrelenting criminalization of immigrants, it is clear that justice matters to voters, especially to voters of color.

The AEE poll found that:



Despite the deep political divide in the United States, we saw signs of progress and the promise of a movement to end mass incarceration in communities across the country:

  • Voters in California secured a major victory for voter enfranchisement when they passed Proposition 17, which will restore voting rights to people on parole for felony convictions.
  • Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota—a mix of traditionally “red” and “blue” states—prioritized public health and public safety over incarceration by voting to legalize marijuana.
  • Voters in Los Angeles County, California, approved Measure J, a first-in-kind law designating at least 10 percent of the county’s general funds to community-based, non-carceral programs and services—an important step forward for budget justice and investment in community-based public safety.
  • Voters in Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Portland, Oregon; San Diego; and San Francisco approved measures to expand police accountability.


Though we celebrate these victories, we know there is much work to do. We’re redoubling our commitment to ending mass incarceration and securing equal justice for families and communities, from ending the use of bail, fines, and fees to ensuring federally funded universal representation for all people facing deportation.

Justice was on the ballot, and the American people have spoken. As vote margins in communities in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta changed the course of the presidential election, we saw the power of voters of color. At the state, federal, and local level, their demands for justice must be answered with meaningful change.