Stanford perspectives on California propositions

by Elizabeth S. Q. Goodman, PhD candidate in Mathematics + Leslie Wu, PhD candidate in Computer Science

Eleven different propositions are on the California ballot this Tuesday, November 6th, ranging from tax hikes for education to GMO labeling and the death penalty. Here are a select few Stanford perspectives on these 2012 CA propositions.

For a summary, see the matching vote listing on and a detailed ballot comparison.

Prop. 34: Repeal Death Penalty (more on Prop. 34 at ballotpedia)

“Regardless of your opinion on the death penalty itself,” writes Stanford undergraduate Lindsay Lamont of the Stanford Democrats, “it is clear that the current implementation of this policy in California is an ineffective waste of taxpayer dollars. Since 1978, about 900 people have been sentenced to death and only 14 have actually been executed. Prop 34 would change this sentence to life in prison without parole, saving potentially innocent people who have been convicted and saving CA $130 million annually. YES.”

Similarly, Stanford Amnesty International say yes: “not only the financially responsible choice for Californians, but also the only morally responsible option to protect human rights.”

Prop. 35: Human Trafficking. Penalties. Sex Offender Registration (Prop. 35 on ballotpedia)

The Stanford Democrats were split on 35:

Though well-intentioned, prop 35 will exacerbate the human trafficking problem. The definition of “sex offender” will be greatly broadened: anyone convicted of prostitution or prostitution-related crimes (even as far back as 1944) will be required to register as a sex offender. This targets low-income women and will dilute the sex offender registry. The ACLU and several anti-human-trafficking groups endorse a NO vote; so should you.

Other reasons to vote NO: Prop 35 increases fines and punishments for human trafficking offenses, but there is little evidence that doing so would reduce crime. In 2005, prop was passed that criminalized human trafficking, and since then that law has been updated and modified by law enforcement quite effectively. Any further modification of the original prop should be done through the legislature and law enforcement, not through additional props. The prop is poorly worded.

Only one reason to vote YES: Prop 35 bans using arguments of “sexual history” against human trafficking victims in court. 

Prop. 36: Three Strikes Law. Sentencing for Repeat Felony Offenders.
(Prop. 36 on ballotpedia)

Stanford Law professors David Mills and Mike Romano support yes. From
Romano, a Stanford University law professor who founded the “Three Strikes Project” in 2006. He says, “nonviolent third-strikers are the least likely to re-offend of any group in prison” and that offenders “will have to go before a judge and show they are not a danger to the community before their sentence can be reduced by one day”.

Prop. 37: Labeling genetically engineered food (Prop. 37 on ballotpedia)

“Proposition 37 would require labeling on genetically modified raw or processed food,” writes Maria Deloso on behalf of Appetite for Change and the Stanford Farm Project. “In addition, food containing GMO ingredients would no longer be able to be labeled as ‘natural.’ Exceptions would be made for food with small amounts of GMO ingredients,for medical conditions, sold in restaurants, and non-genetically engineered animals that have been fed or injected with genetically modified food or injections. 61 other countries already label GMO food with no significant price changes, and US consumers should be given the similar choice. Vote YES on 37.”

Elizabeth S. Q. Goodman is a PhD candidate in Mathematics. Leslie Wu is a PhD candidate in Computer Science at Stanford. is a social tool to stay informed and take action on the issues you care about.

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2 thoughts on “Stanford perspectives on California propositions

  1. Stanford NAACP offers the following perspective on Prop 34:

    “The NAACP supports voting yes on Prop 34 because the death penalty is fundamentally flawed ethically, economically and legally. Proposition 34 means we will never execute an innocent person in California. Join us in voting YES on Proposition 34 this November.”

  2. esqg says:

    I helped collect these, but I don’t agree for sure about Prop 34. I have actually put off voting due to not being sure what to do about Prop 34: there are very good reasons that current prisoners on Death Row may not want it, to do with the loss of appeal rights. Here’s why. (heard through Anna McConnell)

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