A referendum petition drive to have Nebraska voters decide whether the state retains the death penalty has turned in signatures to the Secretary of State.
“I’m sure you’re all interested in the numbers and, according to the staff count, we have 166,692 signatures,” State Treasurer Don Stenberg, honorary co-chair of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty said during a news conference held in the Capitol Rotunda.
“There’s a lot of significance to that number,” according to Stenberg. “First and most importantly, it means that Nebraska voters will be given the opportunity to decide this issue in November of 2016.”
Organizers of the petition drive need just shy of 60,000 valid signatures to place capital punishment on the November ballot next year. If approximately 114,000 prove valid, the petition drive succeeds in preventing the repeal of the death penalty from going into effect.
The Secretary of State will sort, date-stamp, and number the petitions which then will be returned to the counties for verification by local election authorities.
The Unicameral repealed the death penalty this past legislative session. Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed LB 268, but lawmakers overrode his veto.
State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, a co-chair of the petition drive, is confident the signatures turned in will stand.
“And now the people of Nebraska will get the opportunity to vote on this issue in November of 2016,” McCoy stated. “I think that’s healthy for our way of government. I think it’s healthy for the state of Nebraska.”
The petition drive began on June 6th. Organizers turned signatures in a day before the deadline.
State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte was one of nearly 600 people who circulated petitions throughout the state.
“And many of the comments we heard were the people need to vote on this, this is too important an issue to be decided by the give-and-take, the compromise of politics. This needs to be voted on by the people,” according to Groene. “And it will be. It will be, because of the efforts of the second House, the people of Nebraska”
A spokesman for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty said that about half of the circulators were paid; the remainder volunteered.
The repeal of the death penalty was to go into effect Sunday. The Attorney General’s office reports LB 268 will be suspended during the verification process, because the signatures are presumed to be valid.
AUDIO: Nebraskans for the Death Penalty news conference opening. [12 min.]