Election 2014  
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California Voters: What You Need to Know About Important State Ballot Initiatives

From the death penalty to GMO foods to union-busting attacks, here's a breakdown of the most crucial propositions.

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Yes on 35 makes its case here

For more info about No on 35, check out this editorial.

Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute. 

Official Overview from the Secretary of State:

  • Revises three strikes law to impose life sentence only when new felony conviction is serious or violent.
  • Authorizes re-sentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if third strike conviction was not serious or violent and judge determines sentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety.
  • Continues to impose life sentence penalty if third strike conviction was for certain nonserious, nonviolent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession.
  • Maintains life sentence penalty for felons with nonserious, non-violent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation.

In a Nutshell

Right now, someone in California is serving a life sentence for stealing a $2 pair of socks. This would get rid of one of the harshest sentencing laws in the country.

What People Are Saying

Democracy Now! recently did a show about Prop 36. Here's their summary

Under California's three-strikes law, a person convicted of a felony who has two or more prior convictions for certain offenses must be sentenced to at least 25 years to life in state prison, even if the third offense is nonviolent. Critics have argued it is the harshest sentencing law in the United States. Life sentences have been handed down for stealing a pair of pants, shoplifting, forging a check and breaking into a soup kitchen. Although other states have three-strikes laws, California is the only state where a life sentence can be handed down for a nonviolent crime that could qualify as a misdemeanor, such as petty theft or drug possession.

Whose Side Are You On?

KQED has the breakdown of supporters. Those in favor say

The measure makes the punishment fit the crime. It would also save California millions of dollars annually and help with prison overcrowding.

Stanford Law School professor David Mills drafted the measure with lawyers from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, in consultation with law enforcement officials. The District Attorneys in San Francisco and Santa Clara support the measure. Major financial backers include David Mills, the NAACP and George Soros.

Those against say

The measure reduces prison sentences and could release criminals with previous violent felonies. They also argue that the measure is unnecessary as judges already have some leeway in deciding when to apply Three Strikes.

Most law enforcement organizations are against the measure, including: the California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriff's Association, California District Attorneys Association and Los Angeles Police Protective League. The Peace Officers Research Association of California is the main financial backer of the opposition campaign.

Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.

Official Overview from the Secretary of State:

  • Requires labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.
  • Prohibits labeling or advertising such food, or other processed food, as "natural."
  • Exempts foods that are: certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages.

In a Nutshell

This initiative is quite simple: GMO foods would be labeled (as they are in more than 40 other countries). This proposition doesn't take on the science of whether GMOs are harmful or not, but only that consumers should have the right to know what's in their food.

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