The pro-capital punishment group turned in nearly three times as many signatures as the 56,942 necessary to place the issue on the ballot, which is 5 percent of the number of registered voters in the state. The drive must also meet that 5 percent threshold in 38 of the state’s 93 counties.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty also appears to have a comfortable cushion to suspend the repeal of the death penalty until voters decide its fate at the ballot box, which requires 113,883 valid signatures, which is 10 percent of the number of registered voters in the state.
Secretary of State John Gale released the exact numbers of signatures needed late Thursday.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg, a former attorney general who was an honorary co-chairman of the pro-death penalty group, said there was "a lot of significance" to collecting so many signatures.
"It’s reflective of the tremendous support that Nebraskans have in keeping the death penalty," Stenberg said.
He was one of several supporters of capital punishment who spoke at an afternoon press conference, staged in front of an 8-foot-high wall of boxes holding petitions gathered by the group’s nearly 600 paid and volunteer circulators. Signatures were collected in all 93 counties.
Officials in the counties are expected to take more than a month to count and validate the signatures.
Stenberg, as well as the Attorney General’s Office, said the signatures are presumed valid when they are turned in, until the count proves otherwise.
So, they said, the repeal of the death penalty — which was scheduled to go into effect on Sunday — is on hold until the count is completed.
"There will be some uncertainty in the law," Stenberg said. But, he added, "It’s not unusual to have uncertainty in the law."
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