By November 8, we as citizens are mandated by democracy to exercise our right to vote on a wide array of issues. As of now, most California citizens have received their ballots which include various propositions in addition to party nominated offices. Some of the propositions included on this year’s agenda could have a large effect on the way California regulates corporations and citizens. Notably, our state will decide on whether or not to ban the death penalty, to legalize marijuana, and to require universal background checks for the sale of ammunition. What we decide will have a drastic effect on California’s future.
As voting day approaches, it is important that we as students have a firm understanding on the important propositions our legislature has drafted. The topic that has been focused on the most is the aforementioned legalization of marijuana, Proposition 64. It could potentially reduce crime rates as well as draw in hundreds of millions to over a billion dollars in tax revenue. In addition, it will reduce criminal justice costs by tens of millions of dollars annually. The lesser discussed stipulation of the ballot measure is the establishment of standards for marijuana products as well as increased regulation. The passing of 64 would mean entrepreneurs interested in the business could obtain industry licenses, allowing the cultivation and selling of marijuana products. While California was the first to allow the use of marijuana on a medical basis, the golden state has been late to the party in statewide legalization for recreational use. Students should be aware of the high probability of this measure passing, and what that will mean for health and safety. While marijuana has been generally deemed safer than alcohol, it has been known to pose negative cognitive side effects. There has been wide discussion over whether or not they are permanent or temporary. If the measure passes, students need to recognize the potential consequences of usage and how it may affect our community.
The second most controversial proposition is 63. California, known for its typically liberal views, has been one of the most aggressive states towards the regulation of firearms. 63 has proposed the requirement of background checks and the Department of Justice’s authorization to purchase ammunition. For 2nd amendment supporters, that means having to jump through hoops just to go the shooting range. Under 63, many related stipulations follow the overarching statute: the prohibition of large-capacity ammunition magazines is one of them. While safety is a concern and many are under the impression that background checks will prohibit future mass shootings, the related costs to taxpayers are quite high. Increased state and law enforcement costs could potentially number in the tens of millions of dollars annually according to the ballot. If both prop 63 and 64 are passed, then hopefully this cost will be offset by the sales tax generated from marijuana legalization. Even though your personal opinions might consider guns in a negative light, students should be cognisant of government encroaching on our constitutional rights. Students should consider how our decreased autonomy will work to serve us if the above circumstances were ever to occur.
There are two ballot measures regarding the death penalty and its status in the state of California. In 1972, a ruling derived from The People V. Andersen deemed capital punishment unconstitutional. A few months later, the ruling was overturned by Proposition 17. Since then, hundreds of convicts have been sentenced to death. As of 2015, over 746 offenders remained on California’s death row. Despite the vast amount of criminals who have received the sentencing, only 13 executions have been carried out, usually through the method of lethal injection according to the CDCR. In addition, after inventing DNA testing, studies showed that 1 in 25 death row inmates were in fact innocent. What’s unique concerning current measures is the fact that Proposition 62 and 66 have contradicting agendas. 62 aims to repeal the death penalty and to instead replace it with life imprisonment without parole. Without a death row, associated costs for performing the killing and for housing inmates would be mitigated. Estimates show a reduction in state and county criminal costs of almost $150 million according to the ballot measure. Proposition 66 would allow those sentenced to capital punishment a streamlined appeal process but would still retain the state’s ability to murder its citizens. The only aspect both ballot measures share is the requirement of inmates to work in prison, a punishment they’re currently exempt from. In some ways, it makes sense to increase the productivity of inmates in order to offset the average cost per prisoner of $47 thousand annually. Currently, taxpayers have to eat the administrative costs of housing, managing, and providing medical services to incarcerated citizens. With the propositions countering each other’s motive, students must wonder what will happen if both are passed. Under current law, whichever statue receives the highest affirmative vote will be enacted.
As we approach the deadline for electing representatives and passing propositions, it is important that all of our student body is involved in the process. While many students are not eligible to vote, one day they will be. When the occasion arises, it is crucial to hold opinions rooted in fact, and nothing will contribute to this more than engaging in discussions and doing independent research. Most students hold the sum of all information available in the palm of their hand. It is not difficult nor frowned upon to use google as a tool in furthering your understanding of our political machine. Democracy will face vast decay if those participating in it don’t have full comprehension of the laws our government drafts and the methods in which it enacts change.