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November 8, 2006

Figuring out election results for sentencing fans

It is now officially the day after election day, and right now I am probably the only person on the planet currently interested in finding out how this set of sentencing-related direct democracy initiatives fared at the polls.  As of this writing (just after midnight), I cannot find any results for any of these intriguing initiatives, but I hope to update this post with results in the morning.  Readers are, of course, encouraged to post result in the comments.

On another front, it appears that the Democrats will be taking over the House of Representatives.  As suggested here, this could have an impact not only on the prospects for some sort of Booker fix, but also on the post-Booker work of judges and the US Sentencing Commission.  Can anyone report who will likely take over as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and whether that person may have a serious interest in sentencing issues?

UPDATE:  Here is a report on two of the initiatives I was watching from a helpful reader:

In Rhode Island, voters approved Question 2, which automatically restores voting rights to people with felony convictions upon leaving prison.  Previously, felons on probation or parole were also disenfranchised.  This is probably the most sweeping change we've seen in this area in decades, since most of the changes in recent years have involved reforms to post-sentence restrictions (not that those aren't important, of course). And to my knowledge, this is the first time a public referendum has endorsed expansion of voting rights in this area.

Also, on sentencing, Arizona voters approved Question 301 by 58% to 42%, which prohibits persons charged with methamphetamine offenses from being diverted into the state's treatment diversion program adopted by the voters in 1996.  Thus, methamphetamine is the only drug excluded from this option.

November 8, 2006 at 12:21 AM | Permalink


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California's "Jessica's Law" proposition appears to be winning by a landslide, 72-28. Only 15% of precincts have reported as of 9:26 PST, but that's still a huge lead.

I believe John Conyers is going to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Nov 8, 2006 12:45:17 AM

This is the result on the Wisconsin death penalty referendum:

Referendum - 2 Death Penalty
3264 of 3597 Precincts Reporting - 90.74%
Name Votes Pct
Yes 1,064,753 55.3
No 860,417 44.7

Posted by: ward | Nov 8, 2006 2:48:38 AM

Though this is counterintuitive, the Democrats winning the House (or the Senate, or both) practically kills any hope of addressing the crack/powder ratio on the federal level. Two weeks before the election, the Majority House Whip said that a Democratic House would retreat on Iraq and "free crack cocaine drug dealers." The last thing the Dems will want to do is be soft on crime. Though John Conyers (the new Chair of the Judiciary Committee) is adament about a one to one ratio, this may not be the time to do it.

Posted by: Kelly Nance | Nov 8, 2006 7:41:52 AM

I completely agree with Kelly Nance. If you're a Democrat, the dumbest thing you can do is to push an agenda that chases independents back over to the Republican side. The Democrats' majority is too weak for them to get away with introducing a plethoral of classic "liberal" initiatives.

In saying this, I am not suggesting that none of those initiatives have merit. Any person of intelligence, of either party, ought to be able to see that the 100:1 crack-powder disparity makes no sense. But realistically, this issue is a loser for the Democrats.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Nov 8, 2006 2:11:44 PM

A district judge in the Northern District of California this morning issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the governor, attorney general and four district attorneys from enforcing the resident restriction provision of "Jessica's Law."

Posted by: David Porter | Nov 8, 2006 8:30:06 PM

How many voters really know of these issues? Voters are not stupid as this last election proves. Congress could address the 100:1 crack-powder disparity provided conservatives are not permitted to argue to the public only in moral panic sound bites. If informed, and if they understand, the voters will prefer justice. They aren't really as mean as the last Congress thought they were, if they thought they were. Maybe the last Congress was so "draconian on crime" of their own free will rather than the people's will.

Posted by: George | Nov 9, 2006 1:10:34 AM

I am sorry David, but did you pay attention to this election? There is no way on God's beautiful Earth that conservatives would agree not to use the lowering of sentences for crack cocaine dealers as an election issue in 2008, no matter how much they agree that it is sound policy. Any and everything is used to get elected, and the public is not sophisticated enough to realize that lowering the ratio is sound sentencing policy...and yes, the outgoing Congress (and all of those in the last 20 years) has been draconian on their own, not from the impetus of a mandate from "The People" to be so.

Posted by: Kelly Nance | Nov 9, 2006 7:20:34 AM

Re: House Judiciary Committee
The new chair will dopubtles be John Conyers
from Michigan, who indeed has a keen interest in sentencing, opposes mandatory minimums, and especially advocates for prisoner reentry legislation. He is in his 21st term.
The chair of the Crime Subcommittee (it has a longer title) will be Bobby Scott from Virginia. (That's his real name.) He is equally if not more so a critic of mandatory minimums. Both oppose the death penalty. In a word, both are liberals.
An interesting irony: the current majority Crime Committee counsel is Mike Volkov, who
is very cooperative with Democrats on sentencing issues. Presumably he will be minority counsel, but not assured. Republican chairs have term limits, and a new minority chair will be elected.

Posted by: Michael Israel | Nov 9, 2006 10:12:10 AM

Hi. Nice to see an honest attempt at presenting some well researched information. Had a nice time reading. Keep up the good work,

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