Nebraska referendum to repeal abolished death penalty will be on the ballot

by Elizabeth A. Elliott

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The referendum to repeal a law that abolished the death penalty in Nebraska has passed with enough approved signatures 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.

Signatures of 10 percent of the state’s registered voters or 113,883 signatures, are needed to be verified to suspend the repeal of the death penalty until November 2016. They are not finished verifying the signatures to determine if that passes.

The Nebraskans for the Death Penalty collected 166,692 petition signatures, which they delivered to Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale Aug. 26.

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.

Matt Maley, conservative coordinator for Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told NCR Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty won’t give up and will continue to reject the broken death penalty system.

“While enough signatures have now been validated to place the death penalty on the ballot in 2016, we know that public opinion on this topic is quickly shifting in our favor. It's one thing to get five percent of voters to sign a petition; it's another to get 50 percent of them to vote to bring back a wasteful and ineffective program that we still wouldn't be able to use anyway,” said Maley.

Maley said the organization plans to focus on public education between now and the election, focusing on death penalty costs, difficulty on victims’ families, disproportionate affectation of minorities, and the innocent lives put at risk by the death penalty.

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