Voters to Decide Death Penalty Issue in Nebraska

     LINCOLN, Neb. (CN) – Executions in Nebraska may not be over after all, as opponents have collected enough signatures to put capital punishment on the November 2016 ballot.
     Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature banned capital punishment on May 20. Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed it on May 26 and the Legislature overrode the veto on May 27, becoming the 19th state to prohibit execution.
     Nebraskans for the Death Penalty said Wednesday they have collected 166,692 signatures – nearly three times as many as they need.
     The group’s co-chairmen, state Sen. Beau McCoy and state Treasurer Don Stenberg, a former Nebraska attorney general, spoke at a Wednesday news conference.
     “I believed from the outset the petition drive would be successful, but I didn’t imagine we’d collect this many signatures,” McCoy said. “The success of the petition drive is a testament to the strong support of Nebraskans for keeping the death penalty.”
     Signatures must be validated, but that seems a formality, given the number collected. Five percent of the population, or 56,900 valid signatures, are required to put the measure on the ballot, and twice that number to stop immediately the repeal of capital punishment that the Legislature approved in May over the governor’s veto.
     Ten people are on death row in Nebraska, which may not able to execute them anyway, due to lack of drugs to do it. The state tried to import lethal chemicals from India, but the DEA and FDA warned that the drugs will be seized because their importation is illegal.
     Gov. Ricketts, who helped bankroll the petition drive, apparently has secured only one of the three drugs Nebraska needs to kill people. The federal agencies warned him that his attempts to import sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide from India are illegal.
     Nebraska last executed a prisoner in 1997, by electric chair, but the state supreme court outlawed that killing technique.
     The leading opposition groups, Nebraskans for Public Safety and Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, have promised to continue the fight against capital punishment.
     Races for the Nebraska Legislature are officially nonpartisan, though the body is dominated by Republicans. Its ban and veto override made national news, as Nebraska is so heavily dominated by that party.

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