The fate of the ballot question reinstating the death penalty is before the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Justices are considering whether the trial court judge who dismissed the legal challenge used the correct definition of a sponsor.
Attorney Alan Peterson, representing the Nebraska couple who brought the legal challenge, says Gov. Pete Ricketts was the primary, initiating force for the petition drive and should have been listed as a sponsor.
“Who actually got this referendum going just at the moment that it’s filed, not after that, but right then – who got it going, who is the initiator, the instigator,” Peterson told the court.
Steven Grasz is the attorney for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty. He says the sponsor is more of an administrative role.
“It’s on the day that the draft petition is submitted to the secretary of state,” Grasz told the justices. “You can’t have a moving target. Otherwise, any number of people would be considered sponsors. You would never know who the real sponsors were. You would have guaranteed litigation.”
Grasz argues Gov. Ricketts’ two $100,000 contributions came after filing, along with thousands more dollars from other contributors.
Justices tried to get attorneys to offer an appropriate definition.
“An initiating force or the true principal or the real leader – would those be some of the possible definitions of a sponsor,” Justice Lindsey Miller-Lerman asked of Peterson, to which he agreed.
There is no timeline for the justices to rule on the case, but early voting ballots must go out before October 4th.