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In what can only be described as a stunning reversal California voters overwhelmingly chose to shoot down former Governor Jerry Brown's 11th-hour attempt to shove bail reform down their throat, rejecting Proposition 25 by more than 2 million votes.

Proposition 25, or Prop. 25 as it’s commonly known, would have eliminated cash bail bonds in California and opened the state up to the kind of chaos that has befallen New Jersey and other states that fell for the bail reform ruse. Jerry Brown had signed Prop. 25 as one of his final acts as Governor in 2018 against widespread opposition. Fortunately, fast-acting voters were able to gather enough signatures to put Prop. 25 on the ballot in 2020, thereby delaying its implementation. That implementation has now been permanently shelved.

Common Sense Defeats Deep Pocket Lobbyists

The anti-bail lobbyists that troll the halls of state houses around the country have never been able to make a coherent, compelling argument for ending the cash bail system. Instead, their strategy has been to find gullible lawmakers to buy into the no-bail movement. They do this by peddling the falsehood the eliminating cash bail is striking a blow for racial or economic justice. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

In a victory for common sense, California voters saw through the charade and realized that the end of bail would mean the end of accountability, the likely creation of an entire generation of fugitives (since there would no longer be a financial incentive for the accused to appear in court), and an end to victim’s rights. The end of the bail bondsman would also have meant the widespread use of discredited “risk assessment” algorithms to determine who should be held and who should be released.

Not Even Close

In the run-up to election day, some had suggested that voters were evenly split on the issue. That's certainly what Prop. 25 supporter Governor Gavin Newsome was hoping. In the end, however, the vote wasn't even close. 56.4% of California voters chose to shelve Prop. 25, while only 43.6% chose to retain it.

Post-election interviews with voters revealed that much of the opposition to Prop. 25 had to do with opposition to the aforementioned risk assessment algorithms. Voters did not like the idea of a computer program - created in secret by people no one knows - deciding who should be held in jail and who should be released. Many others simply did not see any point in eliminating bail unless there was a viable alternative in place, and Prop. 25 did not create a viable alternative.

Another Setback for Newsome

While the people of California were the big winners on election night, the biggest loser was likely Governor Gavin Newsome who energetically championed Prop. 25. The Governor appeared visibly upset in the wake of the defeat, calling it “devastating” and lamenting that the loss might set back the no-bail movement a decade. It was just the latest bit of bad news for the Governor, who is facing the very real possibility of a recall vote over his highly questionable handling of the coronavirus response. That recall effort gained steam a few weeks ago when a judge gave recall organizers an extra 120 days to gather the signatures needed to hold a recall election.

Another big loser on election night was one John Arnold. Never heard of him? You’re not alone. Arnold was once a key player in the infamous Enron corporation who emerged from the collapse of that company with several billion dollars in his pocket and a desire to make a name for himself.

Arnold took some of his money and hired private developers to create the pretrial risk assessment algorithm we mentioned earlier. He then traveled around the country holding expensive tax-deductible lunches with politicians to whom he tried to sell his algorithm to. He found a willing listener in Jerry Brown, and another in Gavin Newsome. With the defeat of Prop. 25, however, Arnold will have to pack up his lobbyists and find another state with less gullible voters.

A Lesson for Colorado Voters

The same people (including John Arnold) that tried to plunge California into chaos by pushing Prop. 25 are working tirelessly right here in Colorado to chip away at the bail bonding system in Adams County, Broomfield County, Weld County, Denver and elsewhere. Last year, they were able to convince lawmakers to eliminate cash bail for some misdemeanors and this year they have been pushing hard to extend the no-bail concept to include numerous felonies.

Fortunately, Colorado’s version of Prop. 25, known as ‘CO SB161’ was brought before the Colorado Senate in June and soundly defeated. But that does not mean that Arnold and his lobbyists have gone home. As you read this they continue to work the halls of the state house, trying to conjure up support for a revised bill that they can foist on the people of Colorado while those people are busy trying to dig out from the economic hole created by the coronavirus.

It’s crucial that Colorado voters follow the example set by their counterparts in California and send John Arnold and his army of out of state lobbyist packing. The future viability of the state depends on reasserting common sense in the face of these well-financed attempts at social engineering. This fight is not about saving the job of the bondsman, it’s about saving the future for your children.