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Election 2016: Nebraska, Oklahoma Vote in Favor of Death Penalty

Nebraska voters approved a measure to bring back the death penalty, while in Oklahoma, the electorate handily passed a measure to protect it.
Mike Cavanaugh
Mike Cavanaugh collects a signature on July 7, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska, for a petition drive that seeks to put the death penalty question on the 2016 ballot.Nati Harnik / AP file

Voters in Nebraska overwhelmingly approved a measure on Tuesday night to bring back the death penalty — a move that comes a year after state legislators decided to eliminate it. In Oklahoma, the majority of the electorate handily passed a measure to protect capital punishment. And in California, voters not only rejected a bid to repeal the death penalty, but also approved speeding up the process for executions.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting in Nebraska, 61.2 percent voted in favor of Referendum 426, which would repeal the 2015 decision to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life without parole, according to the office of the Nebraska Secretary of State. Meanwhile, 38.8 percent said they wanted to keep the ban on capital punishment.

The effort was spearheaded by Republican Pete Ricketts, who saw his veto of the 2015 legislation overridden by the legislature by a 30-19 vote. Ricketts shelled out hundreds of thousands of his own dollars to get enough signatures to put the death penalty question on the ballot in the conservative state.

There are currently 10 people on death row in Nebraska.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, State Question 776 declared that capital punishment is not cruel or unusual while also adding a section to the state Constitution declaring “any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution.”

With all precincts reporting, the measure passed 66.4 percent to 33.6 percent, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board.

In California, 54 percent of voters said no to a ballot question asking whether the state should repeal the death penalty, according to the Secretary of State's office. A second ballot question, proposing to quicken the time between convictions and executions, passed narrowly, with nearly 51 percent of the vote.