Santa Clara County voters have recalled Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who handed down a controversial six-month sentence to a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of rape in 2016.
About 59 percent of county voters approved recalling Persky with roughly half of the precincts reporting as of early Wednesday morning. The recall needed a simple majority. Cindy Hendrickson, a prosecutor, received more than 70 percent of the vote to become his successor.
Persky oversaw the case of Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted Emily Doe in January 2015 at a fraternity party near Stanford. Doe and Turner were both students at the university when the rape occurred.
Turner was convicted in March 2016 of three felony rape counts and was released after three months for good behavior.
Many people thought the sentence was too short for the severity of his crimes, and Stanford law professor Michele Dauber launched a campaign that June to recall Persky.
As precincts began to favor a “yes” vote this evening, Dauber said the polls were reflecting what she and other activists had seen for months during the campaign.
“I think we’re in the middle of a historic moment, where women across all sectors of American life are standing up and saying ‘enough is enough,'” Dauber said.
Persky is the first Bay Area judge to be recalled in more than 100 years. Persky said at a San Jose rally on May 30 that he would fight to keep his seat. He and his supporters insisted that a recall would leave judges at the beck and call of social media and public opinion.
Dauber disagreed, saying judges have greater integrity than that argument implies. She added that voters today rejected outdated “victim blaming” strategies from Persky’s supporters.
This February, the Stanford campus went under a brief lockdown when Dauber received a rape threat and an envelope containing white powder. She said she’s concerned about similar threats after the recall passes, but it won’t slow her down.
“Anything that’s worth having usually has some risk associated with it,” she said, emphasizing that she and her supporters will demand that elected officials prioritize ending violence against women.
She said thousands of voters channeled energy from the #MeToo movement and the Women’s March to enact “actionable democratic action” today.
“I think the eyes of women all over the world have been on Santa Clara County tonight.”