Both sides of the death penalty debate agree on one thing: the issue before voters in November could be a bit confusing.
The choice facing Nebraska voters is whether or not to support the Unicameral’s repeal of the death penalty in 2015.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty honorary co-chair Don Stenberg doesn’t want those supporting capital punishment to be confused.
“So, in effect, you need to repeal the repeal. So, if you favor the death penalty you’ll want to vote to repeal LB 268,” according to Stenberg.
State lawmakers passed Legislative Bill 268, sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, in the 2015 session. Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the bill, but supporters got enough votes to override the veto and enact its repeal of the death penalty into law. A petition drive to overturn the Unicameral began almost immediately after the legislative session ended.
The vote in November is whether to repeal what the Unicameral did or not. A vote to “retain” LB 268 will uphold the legislature’s action to eliminate the death penalty as the maximum penalty in murder cases, replacing it with life imprisonment. A vote to “repeal” would overturn the legislature and keep the death penalty on the books.
In other words, voters are not being asked to repeal the death penalty. The Unicameral already did that. They are being asked whether they approve of the legislature’s action.
Dan Parsons with Retain A Just Nebraska agrees with Stenberg on this point: voters might be confused.
“Yeah, I mean I think there’s a concern; probably it affects both sides of this campaign,” Parsons says. “I’m confident Nebraskans will be able to sort that out.”
They have until November to get it straight.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]