A Pew poll released last month found support for the death penalty dropped by seven points just in the last year and is at its lowest point since 1972. Executions have reached their lowest level in 25 years, with even Texas seeing record lows. Only a few counties continue to sentence people to death with any regularity.
And now, voters in three states will determine the future of the death penalty when they go to the polls next week. Here is a rundown of the ballot measures and how you (and/or your friends) should vote to continue the momentum toward ending the death penalty throughout the country.
Nebraska: Vote RETAIN on Referendum Measure 426
In 2015, a bi-partisan supermajority of Nebraska legislators voted to override the Governor’s veto and repeal the state’s death penalty. After years of study and 18 years without an execution, they concluded that Nebraska’s broken death penalty system just couldn’t be fixed. But the Governor was committed to executing people in Nebraska. He and a handful of his allies pooled their money in an effort to bring the death penalty back with a ballot measure.
Now Nebraska voters will make the choice: RETAIN the bipartisan solution to end the death penalty (our position) or bring back Nebraska’s broken system.
California: Vote Yes on 62; No on 66
Californians have two propositions related to the death penalty on their ballots this year: Proposition 62 and Proposition 66.
Proposition 62 would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without eligibility for parole as the maximum sentence. It would also require that those convicted of first-degree murder work while in prison and pay restitution.
If Prop 62 passes, the California Legislative Analyst estimates a cost savings in California of $150 million per year. It would also be retroactive, meaning the 741 men and women currently on death row in California would be resentenced under the new law. This would reduce the nation’s death row population by one quarter.
Proposition 66 is a complicated morass of procedural changes purported to “speed up” death penalty cases. Despite this claim, Prop 66 will actually add additional layers of court review to the process, making it more cumbersome and inevitably more time consuming. Experts also believe the measure could be unconstitutional. And any attempt to speed up executions could result in deadly mistakes.
Oklahoma: Vote No on 776
Oklahomans will be asked if they want to enshrine the death penalty in the state’s constitution. The amendment would explicitly declare that the death penalty it is not “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment, even if certain methods of executions are outlawed. The Oklahoma legislature, however, already passed a law that prevents death sentences from being overturned if any given execution method is thrown out.
On top of being redundant and unnecessary, many people – especially many conservatives that we’ve been talking to – are concerned that State Question 776 violates the system of checks and balances by bypassing an entire branch of government, the judiciary.