Death Penalty: Should the Legislature Send it to the Voters?
As if tackling guns, civil unions and immigration wasn’t enough, the 2013 legislature is now taking on possibly repealing the death penalty in Colorado. It’s another major topic, but there is a clear difference on this issue from the others the legislature has taken on this year.
The big difference between the death penalty and the other issues is that keeping or dumping the death penalty may be a decision that is sent to the voters.
Currently, legislators are looking to potentially repeal the death penalty themselves. However, Rep. Rhonda Fields is proposing a different bill that would send the decision to the voters. So legislators may have a clear choice on how they want to handle this issue, meaning, repeal it themselves or let the people of Colorado decide.
So, what should the legislature do? If you were a state lawmaker, what would you do?
Before you answer the questions above, try to truly think like a politician. I know, insert joke here.
But seriously, a politician must not only consider their own conscience and the collective conscience of their constituents, but must also look at the political ramifications of their decision.
Deciding to send this decision to the voters isn’t simply about taking a stand for direct democracy over representative democracy, it’s also handing the issue over to a ballot issue campaign. The fact is that “sending the issue to the voters” also means that there must be an organization willing to take on the campaign and fund it.
I know many people who have taken issues to the ballot. Even the simplest take thousands of dollars to run an effective campaign. And this issue is far from the simplest. It will attract national interest and money and will require a great deal of organization.
So knowing that, if you are somewhat in favor of letting the voters decide, but are fearful that a campaign may muddy the issue, do you consider it your duty to handle it yourself, if you are a state lawmaker?
Another political angle to this issue for our elected leaders is the large stack of complicated issues they already will need to explain to voters in 2014.
I realize that breaking this issue down to political angles may sound crass. But any time we are talking about laws, we are talking about politics, whether we like it or not. And always remember, our elected leaders did not create the system, we did every time we accepted it and let it get worse over the generations.
But my point is that even though each one of us has a very personal opinion about how justice should be carried out in our society, we live in a community and a political community at that. And within that political community, personal decisions are not made in a vacuum. They are made with political angles rife with political ramifications.
But don’t worry, the decision may rise above all of the politics and land in your mailbox soon enough.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.