May 6, 2023 - Election

San Antonio's Proposition A defeated in decisive vote

Illustration of a ballot balancing on a finger.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Voters decisively rejected Proposition A, the sweeping criminal justice reform question in San Antonio, in an about-face from a police reform ballot measure two years ago.

  • About 72% of voters cast their ballot against it, vote tallies showed as of 10pm Saturday.
  • The charter amendment performed slightly better among election day voters than early voters, but that didn't change the overall picture.

Driving the news: Opposition groups claimed victory early in the vote tally.

  • "Prop. A sought to enshrine in our city charter the exact sorts of measures that brought disastrous consequences to cities like San Francisco, Portland and Austin," Eddie Aldrete and April Ancira, co-chairs of a business-backed political action committee against Proposition A, said in a statement.

What they're saying: Police union president Danny Diaz tells Axios he attributes Proposition A's defeat with the time and resources union members spent communicating with voters. But he says he was still surprised at the outcome.

  • "I think the voters see that we're being honest and upfront about what officers need, what they’re doing — and opening that dialogue with the community," Diaz tells Axios.
  • Proposition A's lead organizer, Ananda Tomas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday night.

By the numbers: Turnout stood at 14% as of 10pm, with 78% of vote centers reported.

Details: Proposition A sought to amend the city charter to:

  • Prevent officers from investigating abortions.
  • Halt citations and arrests for low-level marijuana possession.
  • Ban police chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
  • Expand the city's cite-and-release policy to direct officers to cite, not arrest, people for certain misdemeanor offenses, including some theft offenses.
  • Create a justice director position for the city, a person who hasn't worked in law enforcement and would oversee criminal justice policies.

Why it matters: An opposition campaign that tapped into fears of rising crime appeared to resonate with voters, even those who may support decriminalizing abortion and low-level marijuana possession.

  • San Antonio appeared to be the first Texas city to put abortion on the ballot since the state outlawed the procedure in nearly all cases last year.

The big picture: The city would not have enforced many of the measures if voters passed them because they're contrary to state law, city attorney Andy Segovia has said.

  • The city would have, however, created the justice director position had the charter amendment passed.

Context: Supporters placed the charter amendment on the ballot after they gathered more than the required 20,000 signatures. Combined, the measures aimed to reduce the number of people jailed on low-level offenses and free up police to focus on more serious crimes, supporters have said.

Zoom in: Proposition A faced strong opposition from the police union, business leaders and elected officials, including Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

  • The police union's political action committee spent almost $2 million to defeat Proposition A.
  • While anti-abortion groups also opposed the charter amendment, the most well-funded opposition centered on the expansion of cite-and-release policy. Opponents said it would embolden people to steal.
  • The cite-and-release expansion included theft under $750 and graffiti damages less than $2,500.

Flashback: Some of the organizers behind Proposition A also worked to support Proposition B in 2021, which would have stripped the police union of its right to collectively bargain with the city.

  • That measure proved much more popular among voters and failed only narrowly.

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