Two weeks before election day, a ballot measure to roll back California’s three-strikes sentencing law is leading by almost 3 to 1 among likely voters, says the Los Angeles Times. A Times survey found that the measure was backed by 62 percent of likely voters and opposed by 21 precent, with 17 percent undecided. The degree of support startled many political experts. Just a decade ago, voters approved the three-strikes law with 74 percent support. At that time, concern about crime was high, and the highly publicized kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, helped generate support for tougher measures.
Most Californians appear ready to reconsider. The current law allows sentences of 25 years to life for defendants convicted of a third felony – regardless of its seriousness – if they have two convictions on their record for serious or violent felonies. The new statute would greatly scale back who can be sentenced under the three-strikes law. It would require that only serious or violent felonies trigger a life sentence. Support for the measure appeared to cut across ideological lines. It is opposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the state’s district attorneys and a wide range of law enforcement entities. Schwarzenegger sent a mailer last week to about 5 million California voters that included his opposition to the proposition, and he plans to begin public campaigning against the measure today. One cautionary note: fewer than half of voters surveyed were able to say how they would vote before being read the ballot language.