Thwarting voters' ability to vote on the death penalty

Friday, September 18, 2015

Apparently Nebraskans' civil liberties don't include the right to vote on the death penalty.

The ACLU does have a point in its lawsuit, that Gov. Pete Ricketts should have been listed as a sponsor of a successful petition drive by the Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, since he and his father, TD Ameritrade founder Jo Ricketts donated several hundred thousand dollars to the drive.

As a result of the petition drive, Nebraska voters will have a chance in November 2016 to overturn the Legislature's abolition of the death penalty.

The petition drive was managed by a Republican political consultant on the governor's private payroll.

"Powerful interests like the Governor are not entitled to their own set of rules to pursue their own political objectives," said Christy Hargesheimer, one of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit against Secretary of State John Gale, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and three others.

Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997 and technical issues may prevent it from doing so, even if the voters overturn the repeal.

The Department of Correctional Services spent more than $54,000 to buy drugs from India, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has prevented their import. The supplier attempted to ship them via FedEx last month, but the package was flagged because of "improper or missing international paperwork" and it was returned Sept. 4, according to FedEx's online tracking page.

Ricketts' ability to privately bankroll his political activities sticks in the craw of many of us, but the fact the the petition drive collected nearly 167,000 signatures, more than three times the minimum number needed, shows that many Nebraskans are on his side.

Death penalty proponents would argue that opponents were exerting undue influence on lawmakers.

Whatever the eventual fate of capital punishment in Nebraska, thanks to the petition drive, at least most residents will know that we had a chance to have our say.

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