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Voters in three states Tuesday will decide the fate of ballot measures on the use of the death penalty.

In California, which has 741 people on death row, more than any other state, competing propositions will be on the ballot. Proposition 62 would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Proposition 66 would speed up the process of executions.

In Nebraska, a referendum proposes to reinstate the death penalty, which the state legislature abolished in 2015. A petition was filed with 167,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

And in Oklahoma, the state with the country’s highest per capita execution rate, a ballot measure would amend the state constitution to prevent the death penalty from being declared cruel and unusual punishment.

Nineteen states have repealed the death penalty, and polling suggests that at least a couple of these measures will pass. In California, one poll found 48 percent of respondents favor replacing the death penalty with life in prison, with 42 percent opposed.

According to Gallup, support for the death penalty has declined nationally, from a high of 80 percent in 1996 to 60 percent in 2013. Opposition has more than doubled over the same period, from 16 percent in 1996 to 35 percent in 2013. And in September, a Pew Research report found that support for the death penalty neared a 50-year low of 49 percent.

The death penalty is also being utilized less often by states. Only 28 prisoners were executed nationally last year, the lowest number in more than two decades. The number of people sentenced to death is also down from previous years. There are several reasons for this, including high-profile cases in which people sentenced to die suffered long, agonizing deaths after botched lethal injections. There have also been questions over the costs of the death penalty and whether it reduces crime.

Capital trials are very expensive and the slow pace of the appeals process usually means death row inmates cost taxpayers more than those in the general prison population. By one estimate, Prop 62 may save Californians $150 million annually starting in a few years.

Most importantly, more death row inmates are being exonerated following wrongful convictions. Last year there were 149 exonerations, a new record. And according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 156 people have been exonerated after being sentenced to death since 1971.

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Increasingly, people are viewing the death penalty as a potentially grave injustice, and they are changing their views accordingly.

Daniel Allott is deputy commentary editor for the Washington Examiner

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