The group, Nebraskans for Public Safety, filed the lawsuit in Lancaster County District Court, claiming the referendum effort failed to follow state law and should be nullified.
“I can tell you it alleges errors by the referendum people in failing to name Gov. Ricketts as one of the sponsors,” lawyer Alan Peterson of Lincoln tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
The lawsuit further alleges Gov. Ricketts violated his oath of office by seeking to overturn a state law rather than abide by it.
The petition drive began shortly after the legislature overrode a Ricketts’ veto and repealed the death penalty. Ricketts and his family contributed heavily to the petition effort.
Nebraskans for Public Safety failed in its anti-petition effort as the group, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, succeeded in gathering more than enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot.
The verification process continues with the Secretary of State’s office stating the preliminary count indicates the group has met the number of signatures required to place the issue on the November 2016 ballot. No indication has been made by the Secretary of State on whether enough signatures have been gathered to keep the repeal of the death penalty from taking effect.
Peterson filed the lawsuit on behalf of Christy and Richard Hargesheimer of Lincoln, longtime death penalty opponents.
Peterson states the referendum campaign simply didn’t follow the law.
“We certainly do respect all of the defendants and also Gov. Ricketts, but we feel that all of the rules and all of the statutory requirements for a referendum have to be met, no matter who brings a referendum, and we feel a critical item was missing,” according to Peterson.
Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this article.