Friday, October 26, 2012

POLL: Prop. 34 (Death Penalty Repeal) Now Ahead

Good news! As a longtime member of Amnesty International, I have long been opposed to the death penalty, viewing it as a barbaric and archaic exercise of state power that discriminates against racial and ethnic minorities and expensively fails to positively address the problem of violent crime. Most "civilized" countries in the world have already abolished the death penalty but large majorities in the United States continue to support the bizarre practice of killing people to send the message that killing people is wrong.

Thus I have been quite pleased to see Proposition 34 qualifiy for the 2012 California ballot and have closely followed its progress of this measure which would replace the death penalty in California with life in prison without parole instead.

Previous polls by The Los Angeles Times from late September shows that Proposition 34 was behind (38% yes, 51% No) but a new poll from the same group shows that support for "justice that works" has surged:
Forty-two percent said they would vote for Proposition 34, with 45% saying no. In September, the gap was 38% to 51%, a 13-point difference. A significant 12% of respondents said they did not know how they would vote, nearly identical to the 11% who had not decided last month. 
When voters heard more information about Proposition 34, such as its financial ramifications and details of the effect on prisoners, responses flipped: 45% were in favor and 42% against — still very close to the survey's margin of error, which is 2.9 percentage points. 
Proposition 34 would apply retroactively to condemned inmates, require convicted murderers to work in prison and contribute to victim restitution funds, and direct $100 million to law enforcement over four years. It could save the state as much as $130 million a year, according to California's nonpartisan legislative analyst. 
California has more than 727 inmates on death row, the most in the nation. Since the death penalty's reinstatement in 1978, 13 inmates have been put to death and many more have died of old age, other natural causes or suicide. Court rulings have prevented executions for six years. 
Supporters contend that the system is broken and wasteful, with the state spending tens of millions of dollars each year on capital trials and appeals. They argue that DNA-based exonerations across the nation demonstrate that innocent people remain at risk of being executed.
The exciting news about this poll is that it shows movement toward the passage of Proposition 34 even before the yes campaign had started airing its television ads in support of death penalty repeal. The Yes side has far more money than the No side, but the conventional wisdom is that a ballot measure needs to be well-over 50% heading into election day because Undecided's tend to break heavily to the "No" side to maintain the status quo when they are unclear or uncertain about the effect of the initiative's passage would be.

One could make the argument that the ballot measure on the death penalty is different from other issues since most people know where they stand and they know the issues involved (one could make a similar argument regarding ballot measures on marriage equality at this point in time as well).

We shall find out what happens on November 6th! It would be great if the largest state in the Union took a decisive step towards ending the death penalty on that day.

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