Nebraska referendum to repeal abolished death penalty costly

The drive to repeal the law that abolished the death penalty Nebraska was not a cheap affair. According to an article at NBC Nebraska, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty released its expenses Sept. 28 and spent more than $900,000 to get the issue on the ballot in November 2016.

The referendum to repeal a law that abolished the death penalty in Nebraska passed with enough approved signatures on Sept. 15 and will now be on the ballot during the 2016 general election on Nov. 8. Over 65,000 signatures have been verified, meeting the 56,942 threshold to get the issue on the ballot according to the Omaha World-Herald.

On May 20, Nebraska became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty. The bill passed with a 32-15 vote, but was vetoed by Gov. Peter Ricketts May 26. The next day, after debating for two and a half hours, legislators overrode the veto with a 30-19 vote. Almost immediately, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty set about to get signatures.

According to the NBC Nebraska article, Ricketts and his father Joe Ricketts, have given $300,000 collectively to this petition drive.

Repeal supporters have filed two lawsuits according to the Omaha World-Herald. One is trying to invalidate the referendum because petition organizers did not list the governor as one of the sponsors, according to the article. The other challenges the language on the ballot.

Ricketts has not given up his pledge to make the death penalty legal, even going so far as to illegally order foreign-made sodium thiopental, a lethal injection drug, from India. This was despite warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The drug exporter didn’t fill out the proper international paperwork or had paperwork missing, so the drugs were stopped before they left India.

[Elizabeth A. Elliott, is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Contact her at]

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