The NCSL Blog


By Amber Widgery

On Election Day, voters in California, Nebraska and Oklahoma will have the opportunity to weigh in on capital punishment.

prisoner with hands through barsCalifornia voters have two competing initiatives on their ballots.

The first, titled the Justice That Works Act, would remove the death penalty as the maximum punishment for murder and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. The second, called Death Penalty Revision would modify appellate procedures in capital cases and make other changes aimed at reducing costs and expediting capital cases.

Both provisions contain requirements related to payment of victim restitution by the offender from wages earned while in incarcerated. Should both measures pass, the one receiving the highest affirmative vote would prevail.

Voters in Nebraska will also make a decision about the future of capital punishment.

The Legislature replaced the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release in 2015. Legislative Bill 268 was enacted by a 30-19 vote, overriding a veto from Governor Pete Ricketts.

A repeal vote for Referendum 426 would undo the 2015 legislative action, reinstating the death penalty, and a retain vote would keep LB 268 and the prohibition on capital punishment in place.

The Oklahoma ballot measure would add a section to the state’s constitution. If approved by voters the new section would empower the Legislature to designate any constitutional method of execution.

The measure specifies that capital punishment is not cruel or unusual punishment and does not violate any provision of the state constitution. It also prohibits the reduction of a death sentence should a method of execution is found to be invalid, and provides that a death sentence shall remain in force until it can be carried out in a constitutional manner.

Learn more about recent changes to capital punishment in states by visiting NCSL’s Capital Punishment webpage. For more information on 2016 ballot measures visit NCSL’s Ballot Measures Database.

Amber Widgery specializes in pretrial, sentencing and corrections policies for NCSL.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.