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Measure to speed up the death penalty leads, and the bid to end executions fails

 (Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

California voters on Tuesday defeated a ballot measure to repeal the state’s death penalty, while a measure that would expedite and amend the death penalty process narrowly leads with more ballots left to be counted.

The final outcome will conclude a closely watched ballot race to address what people on both sides of the debate have agreed is a broken system.

Proposition 62, which would have replaced capital punishment for murder with life in prison without parole, garnered 46.1% of the vote.

Proposition 66 intended to speed up executions by designating trial courts to hear petitions challenging death row convictions, limiting successive petitions and expanding the pool of lawyers who could take on death penalty appeals. 

With all precincts reporting, it currently has the approval of 50.9% of voters, but provisional and other ballots remain to be counted.

The outcome reflects similar findings by a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, which found California residents, like the nation, remain very much divided on capital punishment, even as public opinion has shifted against the practice over the past 40 years.

This year, proponents of the measure to “amend not end” the death penalty system centered their campaigning efforts on emotional appeals from law enforcement and crime victims, who urged voters not do away with what they called the "last defense" against the “worst of the worst in society.”

But death penalty opponents, a diverse group of crime victims, celebrities and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, argued the system could not be fixed. They pointed to a costly appeals process, the arbitrary application of the punishment and its impact on poor and minority communities.

Times staff writer Liam Dillon contributed to this story.

FOR THE RECORD: 11:11 a.m. This story and headline has been corrected to reflect that the Associated Press has not called the race for Proposition 66.

This story was originally posted at 6:31 a.m.

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