It was tempting to entitle this ‘Los Angeles Votes to Abolish the Death Penalty’. That was indeed what happened in Tuesday’s vote on Proposition 34, a referendum on amendment to the California constitution intended to abolish capital punishment.
The people of Los Angeles voted by 1,191,545 or 54.04% in favour to 1,013,477 (45.96%) against. However, when the votes for the rest of the state were considered, the amendment was rejected, by 47.2% Yes to 52.8% No.
The result, then, was indeed very close, and shows that when the death penalty is put to a popular vote as was the case in California, it cannot be said that Americans massively support the death penalty. I suppose some will say that California is not typical of the United States, and no doubt the support for capital punishment would have been higher if the referendum had been held in Utah or Idaho, just as it would have been lower were it held in Vermont or Massachusetts.
It seems that the message in Tuesday's election is that the population of the United States is changing, and that ethnic minorities, younger people, and women, all of whom tend to be more progressive, are increasingly effective in exercising their democratic rights. That would suggest that if the referendum is repeated in California in five or ten years, the result will improve. It doesn't need to improve much for it to succeed.
Two new publications on capital punishment:
From the European Union, a study by Prof. Roger Hood on enhancing EU action in Asia with respect to capital punishment
From the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Moving Away from the Death Penalty, which is a report on a panel discussion held in New York earlier this year.