Endorsements 2012: State ballot measures - Page 3

End the death penalty -- Yes on 34. No on 35 saves our sexworkers. GMO food gets a label when you vote Yes on 37

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It gets better: Even if the state doesn't kill anyone, it spends $184 million a year keeping people on death row who could instead be getting life without parole — which is, in the vast majority of cases, exactly the same sentence.

Prop. 34 would end 34 years of insanity in the golden state. It would remove California from the unholy roster of states that allow executions and would restore some justice to the legal system.

The flaws in the death penalty are legendary. More than half of the people on death row in America are black or Latino. An ACLU study found that 12 white people were executed for killing blacks, while 178 black people died for killing whites. Nobody who has the money for private counsel gets a death sentence; in nearly every single case, the condemned were impoverished, brain-damaged, or facing serious mental-health issues — and went to trial with inexperienced, overwhelmed public defenders who lacked the resources for a capital trial.

Oh, and then there are the people who turned out to be innocent. In recent years, 17 people who were scheduled to die were exonerated by DNA evidence that didn't exist when they went to trial. There are hundreds more around the country who never got a fair shot in the courtroom. As long as they're alive, there's still a chance to correct a mistake. After the lethal injection, that option goes away.

California, for all its liberal image, has long been among the more bloodthirsty states, approving the death penalty by large majorities. But that's changing — as the evidence increasingly shows how wrong and ineffective the death penalty is, the margin of voters in favor of repeal is growing. And this year, it's entirely possible that this barbaric practice, outlawed in most of the civilized world, will come to an end in the nation's most populous state.

This is a big deal; it's a reason to go to the polls even if you're disenchanted by Obama and unhappy with your local candidates. If California rolls back the death penalty, the rest of the country may start to follow.

If you still believe the death penalty deters crime, never mind: Go ahead and defy all of the evidence and vote against Prop. 34. If you're a member of the reality-based community, please: Round up your friends, your family, your neighbors and vote yes on 34.

PROPOSITION 35

SEX TRAFFICKING

NO

Human trafficking is an egregious and horrible act. California law, as well as federal law, prohibits it, and the penalties are appropriately harsh.

But Prop. 35 — like so much else on the state ballot, the spawn of one rich person with a cause — wouldn't just crack down on the worst people in the sex industry. It would expand the ability of state and local authorities to harass and arrest consensual sex workers and would lead to more people serving more time in prison for victimless crimes.

Former Facebook executive Chris Kelly, mad that the state Legislature wouldn't pass a trafficking law to his liking and looking for an issue to run for office on, put up the money to place this mess on the ballot. It would rewrite the section in California's Penal Code that defines human trafficking, and impose harsher sentences on those found guilty. It requires that all those convicted of human trafficking — under an expanded definition that includes such non-sexual crimes as extortion — register on the sex offender registry, and that all registered sex offenders turn over their Internet usernames and passwords to the government.

Prop. 35 is a parade of horribles that could be used to make someone who peed in public turn over his Internet information and to threaten friends and relatives of sex workers. Under this law, the adult child of a sex worker who was living in her house with her financial support could be tagged a trafficker — and could face a long prison term and a lifetime of being tagged as a sex offender.

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