State election office say death penalty repeal to get vote

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A petition drive to overturn the repeal of Nebraska’s death penalty appears to have met the threshold to get the issue on the ballot next year, according to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office.

As of Friday, county officials stateside had verified 65,171 of the nearly 166,000 signatures turned in by petition organizers, the Lincoln Journal Star reported ( ).

The Secretary of State’s Office said there are nearly 1.139 million registered voters in Nebraska. Organizers needed valid signatures from 5 percent of registered voters, or just under 57,000, to put the issue on the November 2016 general election ballot. The 5 percent mark also must be met in at least 38 of the state’s 93 counties.

The effort needs 10 percent of registered voters’ signature - also from 38 counties - to prevent the repeal of the death penalty from going into effect until the vote occurs.

Nebraska lawmakers voted in May to abolish the death penalty, overriding Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto. The group Nebraskans for the Death Penalty responded with the petition drive, heavily financed by Ricketts and his family, who sought to halt the repeal before it went into effect on Aug. 30 and place the issue before voters.

The group announced last month that it had collected nearly 167,000 signatures. Election officials are in the process of verifying those signatures.

The Secretary of State’s office said county officials have rejected more than 9,000, or about 12 percent, of the more than 74,600 signatures reviewed so far.

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