That's the title of Andrew Cohen's post at the National Journal, a sister publication of his usual outlet, the Atlantic. It's a must-ready, subtitled, "From the death penalty to marijuana, from the right to die to the right to life, Tuesday night will be more than a contest between the two parties."
The election of 2012 isn't just about two men and their conflicting theories of governance. It isn't just about Republicans and Democrats or control of the Senate or electoral votes in swing states. All across the country, on ballots short and long, voters will make choices about some of the most important and contentious legal issues of our time. They will also choose Tuesday night to elect, retain, or dismiss some of the most controversial local officials of our time, folks whose impact upon the rule of law has been, or would be, profound.
The biggest "legal" issue Tuesday night, of course, the one that could dwarf all these other issues in the short term, is the issue of voter fraud/vote suppression. After years of partisan legislation designed to make it harder for people to vote, and after months of state and federal court rulings protecting broader voting rights, we all soon will learn whether election officials in key states are willing and able to ensure that registered voters are able to vote, to vote accurately, and to have those votes counted fully and fairly.
Here now is a list of some of the law-related election battles I'll be following into Tuesday and beyond. After the votes are counted, I'll be back next week with a follow-up to share with you how these races turned out. If you have any suggestions for inclusion on this list by all means let me know with a comment below. I offer these in no particular order of significance.
1. California and the death penalty. Proposition 34 would end the state's costly and inefficient experiment with capital punishment and transform all existing death penalties (725 in all) into life sentences without the possibility of parole. Passage would mean an annual savings to California taxpayers of approximately $130 million. The Los Angeles Times has endorsed the change and so have many legislators and law enforcement officials. There are national implications here, too. If the state with the largest death row in the nation turns away from capital punishment you can bet it won't be long before some federal judge, or Supreme Court justice, cites it as an "evolving standards of decency" under Eighth Amendment law.
Earlier coverage from California begins in the preceding post.