A ballot initiative in California, Proposition 34, gives voters the chance to abolish capital punishment in the state. Initiatives are generally a bad way to make law, but a vote by the people is the only way to overturn the death penalty in California because that was how it was adopted in 1978.
Statewide polls about the measure have moved favorably toward repeal of the penalty in the past few months, but it is one of the important choices on Tuesday that remains too close to call. We encourage every California voter to support the initiative.
It would shift more than 725 inmates from death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and it would reduce by almost one-quarter the number of inmates in the United States waiting to be executed.
California has executed 13 men out of the more than 800 people sentenced to death since the state adopted the penalty by initiative in 1978 (84 inmates on death row have died without being executed). A 2011 study led by Arthur L. Alarcón, a senior judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, found that the state system has cost $4 billion — $308 million per execution. Judge Alarcón, who was a pro-death penalty prosecutor, now opposes the penalty as a costly and “complete failure.” Proposition 34 is backed by federal, state and local government officials, including many in law enforcement and corrections. It’s time to shut down the state’s immoral, barbaric and broken system of capital punishment.
CNN posts, "California vote: Is death penalty too expensive?" It's by Aaron Smith.
When voters in cash-strapped California go to the polls Tuesday, they'll be voting on an unusual measure proponents say would save the state $130 million a year.
Proposition 34 would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It would be applied retroactively to the more than 700 current residents of California's death row.
The issue, say proponents, is cost.
California taxpayers have spent $4 billion since 1978 to execute just 13 convicts, according to a 2011 study by federal appeals Judge Arthur Alarcon and his law clerk Paula Mitchell, a professor at Loyola Law School. That equates to more than $300 million per execution, a colossal bill for taxpayers struggling with one of the worst state budget crises in the country.
California's capital punishment process is also dysfunctional. The state hasn't executed anyone in six years; some of the state's condemned have been awaiting execution since the 1970s.
Nearly half of the state's costs go to pay for legal representation for death row convicts, according to Brian Brown, managing principal analyst for the Legislative Analyst's Office in California.
"Calif. vote could bring statewide tax hikes, end death penalty; record 18.2M are registered," is the AP report, via the Republic.
An election marked by a troubled economy, record political spending and a surge in registered voters comes with California at a crossroad.
The outcome Tuesday will decide whether Californians will pay higher taxes to fix the state's persistently out-of-balance budget, change direction on the death penalty and pass a first-in-the-nation requirement to label genetically modified foods.
California reached an all-time high of 18.2 million registered voters last week, while the percentage of registered Republicans continued to decline, dropping below 30 percent.
The article notes that campaigns for and against the 11 initiatives have raised approximately $350 million as of the last reporting period. Supporters of Prop. 34 have raised more than $5 million.
The Daily Beast posts, "As Californians Weigh Proposition 34, a Look at Life on Death Row," by Christine Pelisek.
Support for the ballot measure has increased rapidly. According to the latest Field Poll, 45 percent of Californians say they will vote in favor of Proposition 34 while 38 percent will vote against it. Seventeen percent of voters reported they were undecided. In September, only 33 percent of Californians were in favor of the proposition and 51 percent said they would vote against it, according to a poll by USC Dornsife/Los Angeles.
What is appealing to some voters is the idea that Prop. 34 will save $130 million annually, and the money will be spread to local law enforcement agencies to hire more detectives and clear up homicide and rape backlogs.
“As former secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and former warden of San Quentin State Prison, where I oversaw four executions, I know what works and what does not. I can tell you, without question, California’s death penalty is all cost and no benefit,” Jeanne Woodford, a Prop. 34 proponent, said in a statement Monday.