BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It’s time for the biennial bonanza of ballot measures. This year, the State of California has 17 of them for citizens to consider. Some are just changes in the law, while others change the California constitution, still others do both. There are also one “Referendum” and one “Legislative Advisory Question.” Regardless, all will be voted on, and as usual some are sneaky, some are straightforward, others are complex or mixed making them tough to call.
I will start this week with five of them, Propositions 57, 62, 63, 64, and 66 that involve, at their core, questions of crime and punishment. Next week, it will be issues of money, and the following week, policy. A fourth article will address local ballot measures followed by a discussion of candidates the very last weekend before the election.
Meanwhile, those who are permanent absentee voters (in California) should be receiving their ballots any day, please, don’t misplace them. I will have a “cheat sheet,” without explanations, next week for anyone who wants to submit their ballots very early.
Two of the Props, 62 and 66, address the death penalty in California. Abolishing the death and replacing it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole penalty is what 62 is for. I strongly support this one, and hope you will, too. Because we are human, and prone to error, the punishment of death is one we should never resort to. It is irreversible, so if an innocent person is put to death, there’s no way to undo that error. And, there is no shortage of cases now in which someone sentenced to die is exonerated by DNA (and sometimes other) evidence. Plus, there is a huge cost involved with keeping people on death row. A big part of that cost is the legal process. No one wants to die, and no society wants to kill innocent people, so the process of trying to eliminate all possibility of error takes much time and cost – attorneys, courts, judges, high security detention. It’s just plain not common sense to vote YES on 62.
Prop 66 tries to “fix” the death penalty in California. But there are so many things wrong with it that is really unfixable. Currently, there is even a problem about HOW death sentences are to be carried out. The drugs used previously have been ruled unconstitutional or are no longer being manufactured by drug companies who don’t want to be tainted with state-sanctioned murder. This ballot measure sets a maximum time during which all appeals must be completed. This is an effort to save money by risking potentially innocent people’s lives. There just aren’t enough attorneys who are competent in the area of death penalty law to serve all the people who are on death row any faster than occurs now. Vote NO on 66.
Prop 57 addresses criminal sentences, parole, and juvenile criminal proceedings and sentencing. Basically, it empowers the courts and correctional authorities to use their judgment and reduce sentences for good behavior. It also allows judges to release people on parole once the sentence for their main crime is served – people will often be sentenced for multiple offenses, legally speaking, for the same criminal act. Finally, it removes from prosecutors the power to determine whether to try a juvenile (aged 14 or older) as an adult, turning that decision over to judges. Remember, prosecutors, by the very nature of their job, have every reason to pursue the harshest punishment for an offender. This effectively creates a conflict and risks further damaging the future of a juvenile who has broken the law. Vote YES on 57.
Prop 63 is an attempt to close loopholes in gun laws. It makes much of the wrong people, not just criminals, being able to have guns. But by reading the analysis provided by the state legislative analyst, what I saw was a lot of discussion of ammunition, relatively little on the actual firearms, and most troublingly, a lot of overkill. A whole slew of new rules would govern the sale and purchase of ammunition. I can easily see a lot of people getting inadvertently caught up in an “illegal” act. It seems to me that ammunition without guns is useless, and we should be addressing the that aspect more thoroughly. While this measure has some good parts to it, overall, I can’t support it. Vote NO on 63.
Prop 64 legalizes the recreational use and taxation of marijuana. This has been in the making for a long time. For a plant that has medicinal benefits and far fewer harmful effects than tobacco, it has been ridiculously vilified. The measure even allocates funds received from the taxation of marijuana to further studies of its effects. I think that is an excellent idea. This is an easy one. Vote YES on 64.