Phones line the wall of the lethal injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison when it was unveiled to reporters in 2010. The facility has never been used.

Phones line the wall of the lethal injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison when it was unveiled to reporters in 2010. The facility has never been used. (Scott Shafer/KQED)

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There are two completely opposite November ballot measures dealing with capital punishment, and a new poll shows neither one is getting support from a majority of voters.

Proposition 62 would repeal the state’s death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It falls just short of the simple majority it needs to pass.

Forty-eight percent of likely voters support it, while 37 percent are against it. Fifteen percent are undecided.

Meanwhile, Proposition 66, a rival measure that would speed up the death penalty process by shortening legal appeals, has the support of just 35 percent of likely voters. Twenty-three percent oppose it and 42 percent remain undecided.

Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo says even though Proposition 62 is leading, its passage is by no means assured. He points to polling for an earlier measure to repeal the death penalty, Proposition 34 in 2012.

“In that year,” DiCamillo says, “the Field Poll’s final survey, completed one week before the November election, showed Prop. 34 clinging to a narrow 45 percent to 38 percent lead. However, on Election Day the yes side failed to get above the needed 50 percent threshold, and Prop. 34 was defeated 52 percent to 48 percent.”

Proposition 66 is supported by most of California’s district attorneys and many crime victims’ groups. San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, president of the California District Attorneys Association, says that if the death penalty is abolished, it will be a terrible blow to crime victims.

“It won’t be justice in their minds,” Wagstaffe says. If Proposition 62 passes, he says, “Crime victims will feel once again that the system has failed them. And the concept of life without parole — they simply don’t believe it.”

Supporters of Proposition 62, including former San Quentin Prison warden Jeanne Woodford, say California’s death penalty is unworkable, too expensive and doesn’t prevent or deter crime. Woodford oversaw four executions during her tenure as warden.

Nearly 750 people are currently on death row, most of them at San Quentin State Prison. Since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978, 13 inmates have been put to death. And even though the number of death sentences being handed down in California has dwindled, the population of death row continues growing.

It’s been more than a decade since the last execution. In 2006 a federal judge put a hold on executions over concerns about the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol. The state is still developing a new policy on executions. Of the 119 condemned inmates who have died since 1978, 96 died of natural causes or suicide.

California Counts is a collaboration with four public media organizations in California to cover the 2016 election. This includes KPCC in Los Angeles, KQED in San Francisco, Capital Public Radio in Sacramento and KPBS in San Diego.

  • pacem appellant

    What happens if both pass? Does it matter if one gets more votes than the other? I can see a scenario where both pass, and become law, though 66 would be moot because of 62. However, I am no expert on these matters and as a voter, I would like clarity.

  • FredZiffel

    prop getting most votes is the winner, the other essentially loses and is not adopted.

  • jernewm

    We are one of 2 industrialized 1st world countries to have the death penalty (the other being Japan). The leading users of the death penalty are Iran, China and Pakistan, countries that are vastly different than the USA. Why do we think that killing people who kill people is anything more than just another killing. It is not justice; it’s vengeance that says killing is OK.
    I’m voting yes on Prop 62 and no on Prop 66 and for the sake of civilized justice, ask you to do the same.

  • I am voting Yes on 62 & No on 66 because of the explanation from the League of Women Voters of California: https://lwvc.org/vote/elections/ballot-recommendations/prop-62-justice-works-death-penalty-abolition