PALO ALTO (CBS/AP) -- Voters recalled a Santa Clara County judge over a sexual assault sentence that garnered national attention.
Santa Clara County's voter registrar reported the early Wednesday morning showed 59 percent of voters favoring removing Judge Aaron Persky from office, with 40 percent opposed after approximately 52 percent of precincts reporting.
Stanford University Law professor Michele Dauber launched the recall effort in June 2016 shortly after Persky sentenced Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a young woman outside a fraternity house on campus. Turner was released from jail for good behavior after serving three months. He is required to register for life as a sex offender.
Many complained Persky showed too much deference to Turner, a white Stanford scholarship athlete whose parents could afford a private attorney.
The judge was following a recommendation from the county probation department, but the case has turned into one of the first electoral tests of the #MeToo movement's political clout.
Persky declined comment when reached by phone late Tuesday.
The Recall Persky Campaign issued a statement from Dauber after the early returns.
"We are cautiously optimistic. Tonight's results mirror what we heard while we were out talking to voters," the statement read. "We are thankful for our supporters and every person who donated their time - it truly made a difference."
The case garnered international attention after BuzzFeed published the eloquent statement the victim, known as Emily Doe, read before Turner was sentenced. The Associated Press doesn't general identify victims of sexual crimes.
"You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today," she read. She also recounted the ordeal of the investigation and Turner's trial, where she was cross-examined about her drinking habits and sexual experience.
"Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney's questions that would be invasive, aggressive, and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers," she read.
Critics complained that Persky's sentence was too lenient and discounted sexual assault while also underscoring the inequity of the criminal justice system. Turner, a white male from an upper middle-class neighborhood, was represented by an attorney his family hired rather than a court-appointed public defender.
Citing judicial ethics, Persky has declined to discuss the case in detail because Turner has appealed. But Persky told The Associated Press in an interview that he has no regrets over how he handled the case or his courtroom.
Personal injury attorney Angela F. Storey and Santa Clara County assistant district attorney Cindy Seeley Hendrickson are vying to replace Persky if he is recalled. Initial returns had Hendrickson with a sizable lead, registering over two times as many votes as Storey with 164 of 988 precincts reporting.
Persky would be the first California judge recalled from office since 1932 if a majority of voters choose to remove him.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
for more features.