Californians have voted in a special election to unseat a state judge who drew worldwide condemnation for giving a six-month jail sentence to a Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, a former prosecutor appointed to the bench in 2003 by then-governor Gray Davis next month will become the first sitting judge recalled in more than 80 years in the state.
In Tuesday's election, 60 per cent of the more than 176,058 voters who cast ballots approved a petition to recall Persky, according to unofficial results posted online by the county registrar.
- Brock Turner released after serving half his sentence
- Brock Turner juror pens impassioned letter to judge
- Brock Turner now the literal textbook definition of rape
The registrar is expected to certify the results on July 5, spokesman Steven Spivak said.
"There is no such thing as an elected official who is independent of the electorate. That is not a thing," Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who organised the recall petition, wrote in a Twitter message on Wednesday.
Persky came under fire in June 2016 for sentencing Brock Turner, then 20, to six months in the county jail and three years probation for three counts of sexual assault, a penalty widely denounced as too lenient.
Uproar over the sentencing was fuelled in part by an open letter from the victim, who remains anonymous, recounting her ordeal in graphic terms.
The letter was posted online and went viral, resonating with people around the world.
Turner's sentence, which predated the MeToo movement of women speaking out publicly against sexual harassment and abuse, was held up as a symbol of how the US justice system fails to take sex crimes seriously enough.
The recall vote came at a time that has seen hundreds of women publicly accusing powerful men in business, government and entertainment of sexual misconduct and harassment.
Persky is not planning to issue a statement about the election, according to LaDoris Cordell, a retired female judge who served with Persky on the Santa Clara County Superior Court and who led much of the opposition to the recall.
Persky said at a news conference last month, that sentencing guidelines and probation department recommendations had limited his options in sentencing the former student.
He has asserted that his recall would undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Prosecutors had asked that Turner be given six years in prison.
He had faced up to 14 years behind bars, and under normal sentencing guidelines would have been likely to receive at least two years in prison.
Turner was released for good behaviour in September 2016 after serving just three months of his six-month term and has since appealed his conviction.