A very important upcoming vote reported by the Crime & Consequences Blog.
In 2012, the friends of murderers came within four percent of repealing California’s death penalty by popular vote, something that has not been done in any state in the United States. Opposition to the death penalty (like other soft-on-crime efforts) is mostly an elitist cause, pushed by affluent people who can go home to their leafy neighborhoods while the bloody consequences of their feel-good “humanitarianism” fall on people of more modest means. Thus, repeal bills have gotten through legislatures even when the people of the state are opposed to repeal. We saw this in Connecticut, where repeal went through even as polls showed the people opposed by 2-1.
In California, the death penalty was enacted by initiative and can’t be repealed by the Legislature. However, the Legislature has failed to do the maintenance necessary to make the death penalty effective, and until now the forces of justice have not been able to raise the very large amounts of money needed to get a fix-it initiative on the ballot.
I can easily see why a lot of people who support the death penalty in principle voted for repeal in 2012. The present system is not working. If I genuinely believed it was not fixable, I might vote for repeal myself.
The well-funded friends of murderers have enough signatures to put repeal on the ballot again this year. But this year is different. Through a herculean fund-raising effort led by the district attorneys, there will also be a competing initiative to actually fix the system, making the reforms that our derelict Legislature has killed instead of passing so many times.
“Mend it, don’t end it” was our slogan in opposition to repeal last time. A good many people asked, “Yeah, but when are you going to mend it.” Finally, we have a good answer. This time, the people of California have a direct choice between the two. The status quo is toast.
I have no doubt the people will choose to mend it and not end it if they are fully and honestly informed of the choice before them. The main concern now is the overwhelming funding advantage the opponents have. They can and will spend big bucks to put misleading advertisements on the air, and our side will have only a shoestring grass-roots campaign. This campaign may be a test of the extent to which money can buy an election.