Since 2000, six states have banned the death penalty, and all six can fairly be described as “blue” states. Four of the six – Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland – are in the Northeast, and the other two – Illinois and New Mexico – are hardly conservative strongholds.
But as Rachel reported on the show last night, there’s a new addition to the list, and it’s one that would have been hard to predict as recently as a few months ago. From Amanda Sakuma’s msnbc report:
The Nebraska legislature abolished the death penalty Wednesday in a down-to-the-wire vote overriding Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto, making Nebraska the first red state in decades to strike capital punishment from its books.In a 30-19 vote that crossed party lines, the unicameral legislature defied the Republican governor’s opposition to the death penalty repeal, garnering the exact number of votes needed to overcome his veto.
Nebraska, with its unusual unicameral legislature, technically has a non-partisan state government, but it’s hardly a secret that Republican policymakers dominate in this ruby-red state. It made yesterday’s vote that much more satisfying.
The key to success, oddly enough, was framing the debate in a conservative way – proponents of the change made the case that the flawed existing system is too expensive; it’s at odds with the values of honoring life; and the governments that kill their own citizens are the biggest of all possible governments.
It was close, and the state’s Republican governor lobbied hard to keep the death penalty in place, but the argument won the day.
Nebraska will now join 18 states and the District of Columbia in banning capital punishment. But how secure is the victory?
Rachel noted towards the end of last night’s segment, “One of the things to watch on this story in Nebraska is whether or not people who support the death penalty, including the governor, try to get it back through some sort of popular referendum. We saw this work through the legislature to get it repealed, including this incredible drama today with overriding the governor’s veto. It will be interesting if they put it to a vote.”
It’s an angle well worth watching – Nebraska took an important step yesterday, but execution supporters may yet try to undo what’s been done.