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The Death Penalty Will Be on the Ballot In Two States This Year

by Countable | 10.27.16

Voters in two states will be asked to decide whether they should implement the death penalty, one of the most controversial issues in politics, this November. Currently, 30 states allow for the death penalty, but four of them no longer use it under moratoriums imposed by their governors. Twenty states have abolished the death penalty, including five just since 2009.

In California, where the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, voters will be asked on November 8 whether they should ban the practice again. In Nebraska, voters are facing the opposite question: Should they bring back the death penalty after banning it just last year?

In Depth: California

California voters will see two questions on their ballots this November related to the death penalty. Proposition 62 would repeal the death penalty in the state and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment for murder. Proposition 66 would instead keep the death penalty in place, but speed up the appeals process. Both would apply to convicts who are already on death row.

Proponents of abolishing the death penalty say that the state spends too much on appeals and would prevent innocent people from being executed by the state. But opponents argue that the death penalty provides justice for victims and their families and prevents state taxpayers from having to foot the bill to house and feed murderers for the rest of their lives.

Read more about the California propositions in our collaboration with CALmatters here.

In Depth: Nebraska

Nebraska’s Referendum 426 would give voters the opportunity to overturn the state legislature’s decision to ban capital punishment last year. Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed that bill, but the legislature overturned his veto last May. The referendum will give voters a direct say in the matter.

Proponents say the death penalty is a necessary deterrent to violent crime and that it provides closure to victims and their families. But opponents argue that the ethical cost of potentially executing an innocent person and the financial cost of dealing with appeals is too high.

Read more about the Nebraska proposition here.

Michigan’s death penalty initiative failed

Michigan became the first U.S. state to abolish the death penalty in 1846, but proponents of the practice worked this year to get a referendum on the ballot to allow the death penalty for first degree murder of a police or corrections officer while they’re on duty. That referendum did not make it onto the ballot.

What about the death penalty nationwide?

The death penalty remains legal at the federal level. Congress has considered abolishing the death penalty in the past, as recently as two years ago with the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2013. Any Congressional action on the issue would only affect federal cases, so things like murdering a member of Congress or treason. Should Congress bring the death penalty up for a vote? Let your reps know what you think.

— Eric Revell and Sarah Mimms

Countable

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