Fate of Nebraska’s Death Penalty Likely to Rest With Voters

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Death penalty petition drive delivers 166K signatures to Sec. of State (AUDIO).

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska’s death penalty won a last-minute reprieve on Wednesday when a group fighting to keep the punishment announced that it has collected more than enough signatures to stop its repeal and place the issue before voters in 2016. A group of pro death penalty activists say they have obtained more than 150,000 signatures supporting the reinstatement of the death penalty in Nebraska. The Secretary of State will sort, date-stamp, and number the petitions which then will be returned to the counties for verification by local election authorities. “And now the people of Nebraska will get the opportunity to vote on this issue in November of 2016,” McCoy stated. “I think that’s healthy for our way of government.

Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature voted in May to repeal capital punishment over the objection of Ricketts, becoming the first traditionally conservative state to do so in 42 years. The decision has angered some, though, who claim they have collected 166,692 signatures, much more than the 57,000 necessary to get the issue on a statewide ballot vote.

Organizers appear to have exceeded the 10 percent of registered voters hurdle needed to block the repeal until the November 2016 general election. “Nebraskans sent a strong message about crime and punishment in our state by signing this petition in extraordinary numbers,” said state treasurer and former attorney general Don Stenberg, a co-chair of the petition drive. An opposing group, Nebraskans for Public Safety, released statements Wednesday criticizing the push for a ballot referendum and expressing confidence that executions would not resume. “This complex legal landscape now presents new questions and unknown challenges that has no clear answers,” Danielle Conrad, a spokeswoman for the group, said in a statement. “Sadly, Nebraska taxpayers will foot the bill for these lengthy and costly legal battles instead of focusing on more positive priorities like how to improve education and reducing taxes.” Gov. The likely referendum could prompt both sides to pour money into the state in hopes of swaying voters, said Douglas Berman, an Ohio State University law professor and death penalty expert. The petitions now go to the Nebraska secretary of state’s office, which will forward them to counties to verify the signatures in a process that will take about 40 days.

Stenberg said no one will know the exact number of valid signatures for at least a month, but the state constitution makes clear that petitions go into effect on the day they’re submitted. Even if the law is suspended, Nebraska currently has no way to execute any of the 10 men on death row because its lacks two of the three required lethal injection drugs and has struggled to obtain them legally.

The Governor has given Nebraskans zero reason to believe that he can fix the state’s irreparably broken death penalty.” Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. The bill passed by lawmakers this year converts their death sentences to life in prison, though Doug Peterson, the state’s attorney general (and a critic of repealing the death penalty), said he will fight attempts to change these sentences. The repeal vote was helped by an unusual coalition of conservative state senators and more traditional death penalty opponents who had fought unsuccessfully for decades to eliminate the punishment. The sentiment is much stronger among Republicans than Democrats, as capital punishment is supported by more than three-quarters of Republicans while it is opposed by a majority of Democrats. The number of executions in the United States has gradually declined in recent years and only a handful of states led by Texas regularly put inmates to death.

The group raised a total of more than $652,000 from 40 individual donors and seven groups classified as businesses, political action committees and other entities.

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