California voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would have repealed the state’s death penalty, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Proposition 34 lost by about 6 percentage points, dimming the hopes of death penalty opponents who were trying to abolish the death penalty in California and clear the largest death row in the nation. Proposition 34 marked the first opportunity in more than three decades for California voters to decide whether to retain the death penalty, which has been scrapped by a number of other states in recent years.
The measure would have replaced the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole and converted the death sentences of California’s 727 death row inmates to life. It would have reverberated through the national debate over the death penalty, while immediately removing nearly a quarter of the more than 3,100 death row inmates now awaiting execution across the country. Backers of the measure focused their arguments on the cost of California’s notoriously slow capital punishment system, saying it would save hundreds of millions of dollars a year at a time when the state is facing a budget crunch. The Proposition 34 campaign enlisted a roster of the rich and famous to bankroll the effort, gathering more than $7 million to far outspend the opposition.