Voters to Decide on Death Penalty in Three States for 2016 Election

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On Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016, voters in California, Nebraska, and Oklahoma will decide the fate of the death penalty in their states.

California voters will be able to repeal the death penalty by voting for Prop 62, or speed up and reform California’s death penalty by voting for Prop 66.

The Nebraska legislature abolished the death penalty in 2015. Referendum No. 426 gives voters the choice to uphold the legislature’s decision to abolish the death penalty, or to reject it and reinstate the death penalty.

In Oklahoma, State Question 776 is on the ballot, and allows voters to proactively protect the legality of the death penalty by explicitly declaring, in the state’s constitution, that the death penalty is not “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore is not a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

On Oct. 18, ProCon.org hosted a debate on California’s death penalty at the Santa Monica Pier with former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, and Michele Hanisee, current Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County.

Gil Garcetti argued that the death penalty “serves no useful purpose,” “has no deterent effect,” “is incredibly expensive,” and runs the risk that an innocent person could be put to death. He said that “more than 150 people who have been on death rows throughout the country are no longer there because they did not deserve to be there, including three people in California… We now have 749 people on California’s death row… in my gut I know that there is more than one person who does not deserve to be on death row.”

Michele Hanisee told the audience that “at the end of the day a decision has to be made about whether or not you think there should be a death penalty, because if there should be then we need to fix it… The death penalty right now is applied to child killers, it’s applied to cop killers, its’ applied to serial killers… these are not your average killers, these are the worst of the worst and there has to be an ultimate penalty.”

The 2016 presidential candidates vary on the death penalty. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both pro death penalty, while Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are both oppose the death penalty.

The death penalty is currently legal in 31 states and illegal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Sources:

Andrew Cohen, “Three States to Watch if You Care About the Death Penalty,” themarshallproject.org, Oct. 19, 2016

Tom Dart, “Nebraska Politicians Can’t Agree on the Death Penalty – Now Voters Get to Decide,” theguardian.com, Oct. 26, 2016

Deacon Randy A. Grosse, “Nebraska Bishops Urge Catholics, Other Voters to OK Death Penalty Repeal,” ncronline.org, Oct. 26, 2016

Oklahoma Policy Institute, “State Question 776: Constitutional Amendment on the Death Penalty,” okpolicy.org, Sep. 12, 2016

JoAnne Young, “Death Penalty Opponents Want Radio Spots on Ballot Language Pulled,” journalstar.com, Oct. 26, 2016