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Voters should get direct say in death penalty
We're not surprised a petition drive to reinstate the death penalty in Nebraska is gaining steam.
Nebraska lawmakers as a whole weren't all that convinced of their action to repeal it themselves, overriding Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto by the bare minimum of votes.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty has to gather about 57,000 signatures of registered voters to put the law on the ballot and 115,000 to suspend the law until voters have a chance to decide in November 2016. They also need signatures from at least 5 percent of the registered voters in 38 of Nebraska's 93 counties.
There are plenty of other obstacles to capital punishment returning to Nebraska, however.
It's been nearly 20 years since the last execution was carried out, Robert Williams in 1997. Before that, John Joubert in 1996 and it was Harold Otey in 1994, more than 30 years after the previous one.
No executions have been carried out since the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the electric chair was cruel and unusual punishment in 2008.
Nebraska has had trouble getting execution drugs in a timely manner, and currently needs two drugs, one of which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration won't let us import.
And, pro-death penalty petition circulators probably won't be the only ones trying to sway voters.
Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty vow to play an active part in the public debate, and ACLU of Nebraska plans to keep an eye on the opposition's circulators to make sure laws are followed.
Expect the issue to come up when you're taking part in community celebrations, parades, festivals, fairs and outdoor concerts this summer.
If you haven't already formed an opinion on capital punishment, you should have plenty of opportunity in the coming months.
Is the death penalty a real deterrent?
Is the death penalty an appropriate means of administering justice?
Should Nebraska abandon the death penalty just because it has difficulty carrying it out?
They're all profound questions and it's appropriate that voters have a say in providing the answers.