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ACLU Report Claims Majority of Virginia Prosecutor Elections Are Uncontested

Creative Commons/justgrimes

Prosecutors in Virginia are elected to four-year terms. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to do much campaigning. A new report from the ACLU of Virginia says the vast majority of these elections are uncontested.

The report looked at the last decade of election data and found 72 percent of elections for commonwealth’s attorneys were uncontested. Of the 120 localities that have elected prosecutors, 40 percent did not have a single contested race over the last decade. 

“They’re running unopposed, and voters ought to be talking about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it."

That’s Claire Gastanaga, executive director at the ACLU of Virginia. She says she was surprised at the reaction from prosecutors. 

“I would have hoped that commonwealth’s attorneys association’s comment would have been great, it’s good to have that conversation started and we’re happy to be a part of it."

But that’s not what happened, in part because the ACLU’s report is also critical of positions the prosecutors have taken over the years. That includes controversial issues like body-worn cameras and civil asset forfeiture. Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Ducette says prosecutors have about the same percentage of challenged elections as the House of Delegates. 

“The ACLU was very selective as to hitting us on things they don’t like without mentioning the other side."

The 32-page report, titled "Unparalleled Power” argues that the abolition of parole and mandatory minimum sentences has shifted power and influence from judges to prosecutors.

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