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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

A Closer Look at Proposition 35

The ballot measure proposes harsher punishment for those convicted of sex trafficking.

Sara Kruzan said that for years her pimp sexually abused her. She shot and killed him when she was only 16 years old. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder.

“I definitely deserve punishment… how much, I don’t know,” said Kruzan in an interview filmed for proposition 35 at California Women’s’ Central Prison.

The ‘Vote Yes on 35’ campaign has showcased Sara’s high profile case as a big reason why voters should vote ‘yes’ on Prop 35 in November.

“It would have protected her, in that it would’ve shown in the light of a victim that was under the control of a pimp at the time,” said Lesford Duncan, Los Angeles county coordinator for the Prop 35 campaign.

If passed, Prop 35 would crack down on those convicted of sex trafficking in California. It includes increased prison terms, fines and regulation requirements for offenders.

“We look at this initiative as kind of a 'no-brainer' initiative,” said Duncan. “What it does is it protects of communities and it protects the young girls out there being exploited.”

Groups both for and against Prop 35 agree that human trafficking of minors is a big problem in California. However, the state already has laws to combat human trafficking.

Opponents say the proposition is not necessary and could hurt the very people it is intended to protect.

Norma Jean Almodovar, the leader of a Los Angeles prostitute rights organization, said Prop 35 will give more power to police to target prostitutes like her.

“Prop 35 expands that power big time,” said Almodovar. "They already have sufficient laws with which to charge real pimps, real traffickers and people who exploit underage people.”

Maxine Doogan, a prostitute, said she’s spent the past few months asking groups for support in opposing Prop 35. She worries its enhanced definition of a sex trafficker would put her son in danger.

“If I support him through some of my earnings, he will now be a sex trafficker and have to register as a sex offender,” said Doogan to a group of voters in Long Beach.

Joe Matthews, lead blogger at NBC-4’s election site Prop Zero, believes the proposition hasn't received scrutiny and is inflexible.

“To me, pursuing this initiative raises real questions about the motives of the supporters and if they really are about this issue or if there's something else,” said Matthews.

Prop 35 is bankrolled by $1.86 million from the former Facebook Privacy executive Chris Kelly. Kelly’s critics suggest he’s using this prop to advance his political career.

“You know, last I checked I spent I've a lot of time and a lot of money on building a safer internet for the past 15 years,” said Kelly. “This is just a continuation of that.”

A poll by the California Business Roundtable in October showed 78-percent of likely voters expected to vote ‘yes’ on Prop 35.

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