- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2016

Voters in California will decide the future of the state’s death penalty this November after a proposal calling for its repeal garnered enough signatures Friday to appear on the ballot.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Friday that an initiative to abolish the 38-year-old law had gathered almost 405,000 voter signatures, surpassing the 365,000 needed to earn a spot on the November 8 ballot.

Should the measure succeed come Election Day, current and future inmates convicted of first-degree murder would face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In lieu of facing their eventual execution, prisoners would instead be required to work behind bars in order to earn wages that would go to the families of their victims.

Nearly 750 prisoners are currently on California’s death row — the largest condemned population of any state in the country, the Los Angeles Times reported. Despite close to 1,000 individuals being sentenced to death since the law was enacted in 1978, however, only 13 inmates have been executed in the decades since.

According to California’s independent Legislative Analyst’s Office, passage of the ballot measure could save the state as much as $150 million annually as a result of eliminating legal challenges that would otherwise be waged against death sentences.

“Because of all the problems with the death penalty, not a single person has been executed here in the last 10 years. Nonetheless, Californians continue to pay for it in many ways,” said Mike Farrell, a longtime death penalty opponent best known for his work on the television comedy “M*A*S*H”

“Whether you look at the death penalty from a taxpayer, a criminal justice or a civil rights perspective, what is clear is that it fails in every respect. We have to do better in California,” he said in a statement.

A previous measure aimed at repealing California’s death penalty lost by a four percent margin in 2012. In January, a Field Poll study concluded that residents still favor keeping the law on the books, albeit by an ever slimmer margin of only one percentage point.

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