The power behind your vote for district attorney

Oregon voters: May 17 is Election Day — don't forget to vote in this important election.

District attorneys are the most powerful people in Oregon’s criminal legal system. They are the top prosecutor in each county. Many of them also actively lobby against smart justice reforms through the Oregon District Attorneys Association.

But most Oregon voters don’t know who their county DA is and choose to not vote in DA elections.

We need DAs who are committed to creating safer communities and not squandering our state’s limited resources. Relying on punishment and prison to address our community’s hardships diverts billions of dollars into government responses that do not actually solve public problems. 

Relying on punishment and prison to address our community’s hardships does not actually solve public problems.


With more than 80,000 Oregonians behind bars or in criminal justice supervision, Oregon’s incarceration rate is 555 per 100,000 people. In comparison, the incarceration rates for countries like the United Kingdom and Canada are, respectively, 129 and 104 per 100,000 people. With such a large incarcerated population, the cost of operating Oregon’s state prison system is a whopping 1 billion dollars per year. This doesn’t include the costs of Oregon’s county jails, police and sheriff’s departments, DA’s offices, public defenders, and courts, which add up to well over an additional 1 billion dollars per year

It’s time for a smarter approach. We deserve DAs who are committed to prevention, treatment, and a focus on addressing the root causes of crime. 

We need DAs who are committed to racial justice.

Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people are overrepresented in Oregon’s incarcerated population. These communities are also disproportionately the victims of police violence. To address these fundamental civil liberties and civil rights issues, we need DAs who are committed to doing the intentional and hard work needed to eliminate racial disparities in our prison, prosecution, and policing systems.

We need DAs who are committed to fighting all forms of sex and gender violence and who are committed to standing up for reproductive justice.

No one should be subjected to sex and gender violence, including historically-disenfranchised individuals who are low-income, from communities of color, incarcerated, or part of the sex work community. We need DAs who will fight against sex and gender violence for all communities, not just privileged communities. With the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and states and local governments increasingly criminalizing abortion, we also need DAs who will defend the fundamental freedom of privacy in one’s body and personal decisions.

The ACLU of Oregon (c4 organization) and ACLU Foundation of Oregon (c3 organization) do not endorse specific parties or candidates for office. We may participate in activities related to voter and public education about candidates and issues.

Videos and Sources


Locked in: What's wrong with the criminal justice system

hand tipping a scale - DA election is May 17, 2022

Too many elected DAs are unwilling to change. It's time we hold them accountable.


It's time Oregonians hold district attorneys accountable.

hand tipping a scale - DA election is May 17, 2022

The DA is the most powerful person in the criminal justice system and has the ability to reform the system.


Justice reclaimed. What does community justice look like?

hand tipping a scale - DA election is May 17, 2022

Let's hold district attorneys accountable and transform our criminal justice system.