Nebraska death penalty battle continues

by Elizabeth A. Elliott

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The battle over the death penalty wages on in Nebraska. In the end of May, Nebraska became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty.

The bill passed May 20 with a 32-15 vote. On May 26, Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed it, but on May 27, after debating two and a half hours, legislators overrode the veto with a 30-19 vote.

Ten people were on Nebraska's death row at the time of the repeal, though the state hadn't executed a person since 1997.

Since the repeal, Ricketts has donated thousands of dollars to Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, an organization that is working to override LB268, the bill that repealed the death penalty. Ricketts gave $100,000 to the organization in early July, doubling his previous contribution, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Nebraskans for the Death Penalty is co-chaired by Don Stenberg, current state treasurer and former attorney general, and State Sen. Beau McCoy.

Ricketts and his father, Joe Ricketts, have donated a third of the money raised by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, for a total of $244,000, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

The Nebraskans for the Death Penalty are collecting signatures from registered voters in Nebraska in hopes of repealing the law. They need 5 percent of voters to sign by Aug. 27 to place the referendum on the November 2016 general election ballot. This 5 percent equals nearly 57,000 signatures, including at least 5 percent of registered voters in 38 of Nebraska's 93 counties.

Ten percent of voters, nearly 114,000 registered voters, are needed to suspend LB268 from becoming law until voters have a say. According to the organization's website, a 14-month repeal period will take the death penalty away from prosecutors for more than a year. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty are halfway to the deadline, but the organization is not releasing any information on the number of signatures received so far.

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