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Hot-button issues on the Nov. 8 ballot

Juliana Norwood | 11/3/2016, 12:24 a.m.

African Americans have had a heavy influence in the last two presidential elections, turning out in record numbers and contributing heavily to the election and then the re-election of the first Black president of the United States of America.

This election cycle, however, has been so rife with controversy, drama, and downright debauchery of the hallowed “American way” that it has left many Black voters disenchanted with the political proceedings altogether. Many are unimpressed with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton regarding her voting history/disparaging comments and supporting legislation regarding African American youth, and her more recent email scandal. Many more will vote for her for one (or a combination) of reasons: 1) they maintain party loyalty and will vote democratic; 2) they actually support Clinton’s political platform; and/or 3) They will do anything to avoid a Donald Trump presidency.

Nevertheless, there appears to be a spreading sentiment that some African Americans will “sit this one out” and that will only do more harm than good, especially in a state like California where many of the propositions on the ballot may even be more important to Black citizens locally than the person who sits in the Oval Office.

Proposition 57, which deals with criminal sentencing and juvenile court proceedings, should be on the radar for Black voters.

Let’s start by acknowledging these 10 facts compiled by AmericanProgress.com.

  1. People of color make up 60 percent of prisoners nationwide.

  2. One in three Black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.

  3. Students of color face harsher punishment in school leading to more youth incarceration.

  4. African American juveniles are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison.

  5. Women of color are three times more likely to be incarcerated than White women.

  6. The War On Drugs is waged primarily in communities of color.

  7. Black convicts receive longer sentences than their white counterparts

  8. Voter laws regarding felonies disproportionately affect Black men.

These startling statistics allude to why Prop. 57 is an important one. The measure allows parole consideration for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies. It also authorizes the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to award sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and educational achievements. In addition, it allows juvenile court judges to make determinations about whether juveniles age 14 years and older should be prosecuted and sentenced as adults. The measure, if passed, is expected to save the state tens of millions of dollars due to a reduction in the prison population.

In a similar vein, Prop. 62 will repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It will apply retroactively to existing death sentences. The measure also increases the portion of life inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution.

According to research from the Death Penalty Information Center, 741 individuals are on death row in California, significantly more than any other state in the nation. What is even more jarring is that the same research found that the race of victims plays a major role in determining if a defendant will be sentenced to death.