As activists continue to take to the streets in protests against racist police brutality, they are also advocating for major changes to police departments, demanding everything from police accountability to defunding or abolishing the police. But these demands will likely be more effective if the officials who make the final calls are receptive, and in order to elect more supportive officials, you have to vote for them. The decisions about where to allocate budget resources and how to oversee police forces are typically in the hands of local officials, like your mayor or district attorneys — officials who are often elected. So if you want to demand justice for the Black people killed by police and you want to challenge existing systems of racism and discrimination, these are the local races you should pay attention to.
All across the country, activists have demanded justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Elijah McClain, and many other Black people who have been killed by police — and at the local level, they have put pressure on city councils and other elected officials to invest in communities, rather than in policing. Calls to defund and ultimately abolish the police have been coupled with demands to invest in schools, health care, social work, and other resources, especially in disproportionately marginalized communities and neighborhoods.
In many areas, the political pressure activists have placed on local officials has gotten results. On June 12 — 18 days after Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers on May 25 — the Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted in favor of a plan to disband the city's police department and replace it with a community-led safety model, thereby highlighting the importance of local elections and the effectiveness of grassroots activism. If you want to take your activism to the ballot box as well as the streets, here are some of the races and elected positions you should be ready to vote on — whether you want to support specific changes to policing, complete overhauls of law enforcement, or the ultimate abolition of the prison industrial complex. Not all of these elected positions may be applicable to where you live, but even if they’re not, you can use this as a starting point to research what’s most effective for your area. Remember, there are all kinds of ways to enact lasting change.