The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
November 9, 2012
The election is over and President Barack Obama will remain our president for four more years. Whether that makes you happy or sad one thing is clear -- crime, the fear of crime, the punishment of criminals, the efficiency and fairness of our courts -- had nothing to do with the outcome.
Why? A Gallup Poll this fall found that less than one percent of Americans believed crime was the nation's most pressing problem. As a result, we didn’t hear so much as a “peep” out of either candidate on law and order issues.
However, crime was on the mind of some voters. On Tuesday, 17 states considered ballot measures and referendums that had implications for the criminal justice system. Here’s how some of those initiatives turned out.
California voters had several law and order issues on the ballot. Proposition 34 would have replaced the death penalty with life in prison without parole and would have overturned the death sentences of 727 death row inmates. California had executed just 13 inmates since restoring the death penalty in 1978. The death penalty survived by about 6 percentage points.
On the other hand, Proposition 36, a ballot measure to reform California's Three Strikes Law passed with 68 percent of the vote. The revised law requires that a third offense, resulting in life in prison, be of a serious or violent nature.
Recreational marijuana use is now legal in two states. Under measures in Colorado and Washington, those 21 years of age and older will be allowed to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana. Colorado’s Amendment 64 passed with 54 percent of the vote, and Washington’s Initiative 502 garnered 55 percent.
In North Dakota, Measure 5 would have made it a felony for anyone to maliciously harm a dog, cat or horse. The measure was soundly defeated by North Dakota farmers and ranchers who convinced 67 percent of their fellow citizens to vote against it.
Crime did play an unexpected role in a couple of races. Two Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, made harshly criticized remarks about rape and abortion and lost Senate bids that they were widely expected to win.
Some issue advocates who’s causes where all but ignored during the campaign found a silver lining, not necessarily in what a candidate said, but by merely what he did.
On the weekend before Election Day, President Obama held a rally in Aurora, CO, where 12 people were gunned down in a movie theater last summer. Although the president didn’t make a stirring call for gun control, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence felt the symbolism of the visit was unmistakable.
In an election devoid of law and order issues even the most subtle acknowledgement was a victory.
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