"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nebraska: Death penalty verification process delayed

Gathering signatures against the Nebraska death penalty repeal
Gathering signatures against the Nebraska death penalty repeal
Incorrectly redirected death penalty petitions are delaying the signature verification process, the Nebraska Secretary of State's Office said Friday night.

An "unusually high number of petitions" were returned to the Secretary of State's Office and redirected to other counties, according to a release.

Laura Strimple, communications director with the Secretary of State's Office, said it's "not uncommon" for petition pages to be mailed to the wrong counties when stacked together. Approximately 60 counties are getting the wrong petition pages, she said, delaying the process.

The Secretary of State's Office released preliminary totals in early September for petition signatures verified by county officials, indicating that the petition drive to overturn the repeal of the state's death penalty had met the threshold to get the issue on the November 2016 ballot.

As of Friday, officials at the county level had verified 142,703 of the 167,724 signatures turned in by petition organizers.

County officials had thus far rejected 22,619 of signatures reviewed.

The number of registered voters in Nebraska at the petition deadline was 1,138,825, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Organizers needed signatures from 5 percent of the state's registered voters, or 56,942 verified signatures, to put the issue on the ballot.

Reaching 10 % of registered voters, or 113,883 valid signatures, would prevent the legislation from going into effect until it can be voted on.

Both thresholds further require that the 5 % or 10 % mark be met in at least 38 of the state's 93 counties.

Strimple said at least 38 counties certified their numbers to meet the 5 % threshold, but not yet the 10 % threshold.

In Lancaster County, Friday's report showed, 20,128 of 23,907 signatures gathered were verified, with 3,598 rejected.

Douglas County signatures totaled 38,346, with 32,233 of those verified.

Signatures and information are checked against voter registration records.

Lancaster County Election Commissioner Dave Shively said his staff has a lot of leeway on verifying those signatures, even when they are hard to read or have missing or wrong information.

"It's our responsibility to prove that they're not registered, not that they are registered," he said.

The Secretary of State's Office has not certified any of the count totals released Friday. Some counties are still verifying signatures, Strimple said.

Nebraska's death penalty was repealed by the Legislature in May with the passage of LB268. Lawmakers then voted 30-19 to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto of the bill.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, October 4, 2015

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