|Gathering signatures against the death penalty repeal in Nebraska|
Supporters of the death penalty in Nebraska said they turned over 166,692 petition signatures Wednesday, which if verified, would suspend the repeal of capital punishment in the state until the issue goes before voters in November 2016.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty needed about 57,000 verified signatures -- 5 percent of the state's registered voters -- to put the issue to a vote and about 114,000 -- 10 percent of registered voters -- to stop the repeal from going into effect until after the 2016 vote takes place.
Standing in front of boxes and boxes of signed petitions at a Wednesday news conference, state Sen. Mike Groene said Nebraskans -- the second house -- will now have their say.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg, state Sen. Beau McCoy, and Vivian Tuttle, mother of Evonne Tuttle, who was killed in 2002 during a bank robbery in Norfolk, were at the news conference. Stenberg and McCoy co-chaired the petition drive. Groene, of North Platte, and Tuttle said they gathered more than 1,700 and 1,900 signatures, respectively.
Groene said people "flocked" to sign petitions.
The group began collecting signatures June 6, and paid circulators and volunteers spent every day since circulating petitions in all counties across the state. McCoy said over half of the 595 petition circulators were volunteers.
Organizers of the petition drive said they expected to have no problem meeting the additional threshold of signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in at least 38 counties. Petitions, they said, include signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in 70 of the state's 93 counties.
In May, Nebraska made international headlines when the Legislature voted 30-19 to override Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of LB268, introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, which repealed the death penalty. The count included votes to repeal cast by senators who identify as conservative. One of the senators who worked hard to gather repeal votes in the Legislature was Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash, who identifies himself as a conservative Republican, and who is also Catholic.
Ricketts and his father, Joe Ricketts, have been reported as the largest individual financial contributors to the campaign, which had raised $652,000 by the end of July, as reported to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. At the last filing with the commission, the governor and his father had contributed at least $300,000.
The Judicial Crisis Network, a group committed to the U.S. Constitution and to limited government, contributed $200,000 on July 27.
Nebraskans for Public Safety, which favors repeal of the death penalty, had raised $433,500 as of the end of July. About $400,000 of that came from the Proteus Action League of Amherst, Massachusetts, a civil rights and social action advocacy group.
Another group, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, is closely monitoring the initial results of the death penalty referendum signature-gathering campaign and will await an official decision from the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office, the group said in a news release.
Source: Lincoln Journal Star, Joanne Young, August 26, 2015
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