Vermont State’s Attorneys Respond to ACLU Voter Education Survey
Several candidates decline to provide information on individual positions ahead of 2018 elections
MONTPELIER — Today the ACLU published a voter guide for the 2018 Vermont state’s attorney elections, posting to its website the responses received from a survey of candidates statewide. The ACLU had invited each candidate to state their personal views on a range of criminal justice issues ahead of this year’s elections, including prosecutor transparency, police accountability, the opiate epidemic, mental health services, and racial disparities in Vermont’s criminal justice system.
Of the 20 candidates running for state’s attorney in Vermont’s 14 counties, three challengers provided their own responses to the full 20-question survey. Eight incumbents submitted a coordinated, collective response via the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs. Four incumbents responded individually, though many of their answers contain language that appears verbatim in the Department’s collective response. Four candidates—two challengers and two incumbents—declined to respond to the survey.
ACLU of Vermont community organizer Nico Amador: “Vermont’s elected prosecutors have tremendous power, but historically have operated with little public attention or scrutiny. Vermonters overwhelmingly support criminal justice reform, and this voter guide provides much-needed information to make informed decisions at the ballot box and to hold their elected representatives more accountable going forward.”
The ACLU’s survey was developed with the input of community members, civil rights groups, and criminal justice experts statewide. This is the first time that all candidates for Vermont state’s attorney have been asked to state their personal views to constituents on the record.
A May 2018 poll of Vermont voters found broad support for criminal justice reform in Vermont, with a majority of voters more likely to support candidates committed to increasing prosecutors’ transparency, and to reducing the state’s prison population by emphasizing alternatives to incarceration like drug treatment, mental health services, and restorative justice. The same ACLU poll confirmed that prosecutors’ role in the criminal justice system is not well understood by voters, with 42% of respondents saying they knew little or nothing at all about state’s attorneys’ responsibilities.
ACLU of Vermont executive director James Lyall: “Vermonters want a smarter, fairer justice system, and they want prosecutors to be more transparent about how they’re going to make that happen. We encourage Vermonters to use this guide to inform their voting decisions and to engage with their state’s attorney, just as they would with any other elected officials.”
State’s attorneys are on the ballot statewide in 2018, including three contested primaries in Bennington, Essex, and Lamoille, and at least three contested races in the general election, in Addison, Lamoille and Orleans.
The 2018 voter guide is part of the ACLU’s national effort to draw attention to the critical but often unseen role of elected prosecutors in the criminal justice system. In addition to publicizing its candidate survey, the ACLU of Vermont is organizing public education events around the state and encouraging Vermonters to vote in the primary and general elections.
Vermont’s primary election is scheduled for August 14th, 2018 and the general election is November 6th, 2018.
The ACLU of Vermont’s voter guide is available here.
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