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A condemned inmate is led out of his cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California in 2016.
Crime on the Ballot

The Death Penalty is Alive and Well

Voters in three states approve measures to strengthen capital punishment.

You can hold off on those stories about the demise of capital punishment in America, at least as far as public opinion goes. Voters in three states, two reds and a blue, decisively endorsed capital punishment in a series of ballot initiatives decided late Tuesday into Wednesday.

In California, voters appear to have rejected a measure that would have repealed the death penalty and at the same time by a smaller margin endorsed a measure whose sponsors contend will expedite executions in the Golden State. The results, a crushing blow to capital abolitionists in the state and around the country, nevertheless guarantees years of additional litigation over the new procedures designed to empty the nation’s largest death row.

In Nebraska, voters decisively turned on their own legislators and restored the death penalty. Lawmakers repealed capital punishment in 2015, citing its costs among other factors, but Gov. Pete Ricketts led an expensive campaign to bring back executions. His message clearly resonated in a state that has 10 death row inmates who have been in limbo for the past 18 months. The “repeal the repeal” movement won by margins as large as 4-1 in some counties outside of Lincoln and Omaha, reported the World-Herald.

Finally, in Oklahoma, a state with a chaotic recent history of executions, voters overwhelming shored up their state’s death penalty by amending the constitution to confirm that capital punishment is not “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment and to give legislators the power to change the methods of execution if one is declared unconstitutional.