Ballot campaigns fighting to halt the death penalty are getting unlikely support from some Republicans, who cite a growing concern that it has become a costly and ineffective policy, the Wall Street Journal reports. Voters in Nebraska and California will decide Nov. 8 whether to abolish the death penalty, while Oklahomans will vote on a measure that would give the state more leeway in the methods used to kill death-row inmates. “Republicans are starting to take the lead on this issue, they’re starting to say we’re going to use our conservative principles and get rid of this,” said Colby Coash, a Nebraska Republican state senator. “Here’s a broken government program, if you want to fix broken government programs.” Coash rallied the Republican-majority state Legislature to ban the death penalty last year.
His opponents argue voters won’t be so easily convinced. “They’re out of touch with the views of their constituents,” said Donald Stenberg, Nebraska’s GOP state treasurer who was attorney general in 1997 when the state last executed a death-row inmate. Nationally, support for the death penalty is still far stronger among Republicans than Democrats, but it is waning. The Pew Research Center said this year that 72 percent of Republicans favor the death penalty, down from 77 percent in 2015 and 87 percent in 1996. Some 34 percent of Democrats support the death penalty, down from 40 percent last year. In Oklahoma, where executions are on hold after a botched execution and multiple drug mix-ups, independent pollsters were surprised by the amount of Republican support for abolishing the death penalty when there is an alternative punishment for murderers. Nearly half of Republicans said in a survey they would support its abolition if murderers were instead given life without parole and forced to pay restitution.