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Release coincides with finalized field of MA sheriff candidates  

After a recent poll showed just 17% of Massachusetts voters can correctly name their local sheriff, the ACLU today released a new digital tool to help voters learn about these elected officials and their challengers. It follows the recent launch of the ACLU’s “Know Your Sheriff” campaign, a statewide voter education initiative that seeks to build public awareness of the life-changing decisions that sheriffs make, and how voters can move sheriffs to make communities safer and more just for all.  

“Sheriffs make decisions every day that impact our communities, but most Massachusetts voters don’t even know who their sheriff is,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Information is power in the hands of voters. We hope this tool—and this campaign—will help educate voters about the stakes of the sheriff’s election and encourage them to make their voices heard this fall.” 

A poll commissioned by the ACLU shows a lack of knowledge among Massachusetts voters about the roles and responsibilities of sheriffs. Fewer than one-in-five voters (17%) can correctly name their local sheriff. Nearly half (41%) do not know that sheriffs are elected, while 90% do not know that a sheriff’s term is six years. The same poll shows that after learning more about sheriffs, 71% of voters say they are very likely to vote in the next election for local sheriff, a 26-point increase from the start of the survey (45%). 

“More than four out of five voters don’t know who their sheriff is—and that has to change," said Laura Rótolo, field director at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Sheriffs are responsible for more than half the state’s incarcerated population; they control the conditions inside jails and houses of correction, including which education and treatment programs to offer. And this impacts the whole community. This fall, voters should understand all the ways in which their ballot can promote justice and public health. Bay Staters should know that they have the power to elect sheriffs who are committed to transformation and healing—not punishment, retribution, or cruelty.” 

With the recent deadline for district and county candidates to finalize their nominations with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the field of sheriff candidates is now set for all 14 counties. The ACLU is a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse or oppose any candidate for office; the goal of “Know Your Sheriff” is to educate voters and promote voter participation.  

The new tool was developed by the Data for Justice Project, an initiative by the ACLU of Massachusetts that develops tools and dashboards to make complex data sets accessible to lawyers, advocates, community organizers, journalists, activists, and the general public. The Data for Justice Project also serves as a repository for government data sets and documents obtained through ACLU of Massachusetts public records requests. 

In the coming months, as part of “Know Your Sheriff,” the ACLU of Massachusetts will be working with partners in key counties to host candidate forums and public education events. 

For more information about “Know Your Sheriff,” go to:

For more information about the Data for Justice Project, go to: