Nebraska group says it may have enough signatures to suspend the state’s …

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Death penalty group to submit ballot signatures on Wednesday.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — An organization campaigning to reinstate Nebraska’s death penalty after lawmakers repealed it in May said Wednesday it has collected more than enough signatures to suspend the law before it goes into effect and place it before voters in 2016. In May, Nebraska lawmakers voted to abolish the death penalty, narrowly overriding a veto from the governor to make the state the 19th to ban capital punishment. Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature had voted to repeal capital punishment over the objection of Ricketts, becoming the first traditionally conservative state to do so in 42 years. State Senator Beau McCoy, a co-chair of the petition drive, said, “I believed from the outset the petition drive would be successful, but I didn’t imagine we’d collect this many signatures.

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 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. The group began collecting signatures June 6, and paid circulators and volunteers spent every day since circulating petitions in all counties across the state.

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 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. Griffith said that while it looks like the pro-death penalty group got signatures from 10 percent of registered voters, it appears to have failed to attract broad-based financial support because Gov.

The petitions will go to Secretary of State John Gale’s office, where they will be counted, separated by county and numbered, and then sent to local officials for verification.

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