SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) – California voters have decided to retain the death penalty for the state’s worst criminals, rejecting the argument that too few death row inmates are executed to justify the cost.

Nearly complete returns Wednesday showed Proposition 34 defeated with 52 percent voting against it. The initiative asked voters to repeal capital punishment in the state with the nation’s largest death row, with 726 inmates awaiting execution.

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The initiative, backed by the ACLU, would have made life in prison without parole the state’s toughest sentence.

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Proposition 34’s defeat comes despite its supporters outspending opponents by more than 5 to 1.

Supporters argued that ending the death penalty and shuttering California’s death row could save as much as $130 million a year.

Opponents said it would allow the worst offenders to escape justice.

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