Gov. Pete Ricketts denies he was a sponsor of the referendum petition campaign that seems to have placed the death penalty on the ballot.
Ricketts dismisses suggestions by the group, Nebraskans for Public Safety, that the nearly 167,000 signatures gathered should be thrown out, because organizers didn’t list the governor as a sponsor.
“No, I’m not a sponsor of this referendum drive. Certainly, I’ve been an advocate. I believe very strongly that Nebraska ought to retain the death penalty,” Ricketts tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln, on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “It’s certainly one of the ways that we help protect the people who protect us, our law enforcement officers and, in particular, our Corrections officers.”
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty spent more than $900,000 on its apparently successful petition drive. Though the Secretary of State has yet to officially certify the signatures gathered, it appears the drive gathered enough signatures to not only put capital punishment on the November 2016 ballot, but also to block the legislature’s repeal of the death penalty from taking effect.
Nebraskans for Public Safety campaigned against the petition drive, spending more than $450,000 on its “Decline to Sign” campaign. The group has filed two lawsuits since Nebraskans for the Death Penalty turned in its signatures. One challenges the ballot language written by the Attorney General. The other claims the petition drive should be invalidated, because organizers didn’t list Gov. Ricketts as a sponsor.
Ricketts used some of his wealth from TD Ameritrade, which his family owns, to donate $200,000 to help finance the petition drive.
“And, while I’ve been a strong advocate and certainly donated to it, that does not make me a sponsor,” Ricketts says. “What you see here is a special interest group who proclaims that they want to protect democracy actually trying to rob Nebraskans of their ability to vote on this important issue.”
Ricketts looks forward to the vote next year.
“I believe Nebraskans should vote on it,” Ricketts says. “I believe when they vote on it, you will see that Nebraskans will want to retain capital punishment, because the vast majority of Nebraskans I talk to believe as I do that it’s an important tool for public safety. And that’s what I would like to see happen here and I’m just surprised some of these special interest groups are trying to stop Nebraskans from voting on it.”