|Gathering signatures against the Nebraska death penalty repeal|
When the Nebraska Legislature abolished the death penalty three months ago, opponents of capital punishment hailed the vote as a sign that red-state conservative lawmakers increasingly view the punishment as expensive, inefficient and morally questionable.
Now, they face a much more daunting task: persuading voters to see it the same way.
Supporters and opponents are preparing for a campaign that will test the notion that sentiment in Nebraska has changed. Death penalty opponents have promised a vigorous campaign, but even some of their coalition members acknowledge they could struggle to sway voters.
"I do think it's an uphill battle because it's such an emotional issue," said Bryan Baumgart, a former Douglas County Republican Party chairman who has fought to repeal the death penalty. "It's a lot easier to play to emotion than it is to present facts and reason. Our challenge is going to be to make sure we provide Nebraskans with the same information that the Legislature received."
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which was heavily financed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and his father, announced last month it had gathered 166,692 signatures from all 93 counties — nearly three times the minimum number needed to place the issue on the November 2016 ballot.
The petition drive began after lawmakers voted in May to repeal capital punishment over the objection of Ricketts, becoming the first traditionally conservative state to do so since North Dakota in 1973. Although the signatures still must be verified, it's likely the petition sponsors collected enough to keep the law from taking effect before the election.
Source: JournalStar.com, Grant Schulte (AP), September 7, 2015
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