Proposition 62’s Defeat

The Justice That Works Act of 2016 did not receive majority support in the November election. We look at the campaign, some of the factors that led to its loss, and what the future of abolitionism may look like.

When California voters defeated Prop 62, the Justice That Works Act of 2016, last month, and approved Proposition 66, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Initiative, they joined Nebraska and Oklahoma voters in supporting capital punishment in their states. This, in spite of the fact that a Pew poll in September showed that support for the death penalty nationwide was at the lowest it had been in 40 years.

And in California, voters were “evenly split when asked what to do about the state’s death penalty law,” a Field Poll reported in January. That survey showed 47 percent of voters supported repealing the death penalty and replacing it with life in prison without the possibility of parole, while 48 percent were in favor of speeding up the execution process. This was in sharp contrast to a Field Poll in 2014 that showed 52 percent of Californians supported speeding up the execution process, while 40 percent favored replacing the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole.

So it was a deeply disappointing loss for backers and supporters of Prop 62, one that led to deep soul-searching and analysis. One major conclusion was that the measure was defeated by a trifecta of challenges: well-funded opposition that spent approximately seven million dollars; a counter measure that pulled voters who wanted some kind of reform, away from 62; and lower turnout than expected.

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