Skip to comments.Voters Back Resuscitating Death Penalty In Wisconsin Referendum Was Only Advisory
Posted on 11/07/2006 11:39:40 PM PST by Tim Long
MADISON, Wis. -- More than 150 years after the death penalty was repealed in Wisconsin, voters statewide carved a wider opening for the state Legislature to usher capital punishment into the 21st century.
TALKBACK:Should Wisconsin Bring Back The Death Penalty?
A referendum on Tuesday's ballot asked voters whether the death penalty should be enacted for anyone convicted of first-degree intentional homicide if there is DNA evidence to support. The measure won by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent margin.
Because the referendum is only an advisory one -- meaning that the state isn't bound by the results-- it was substantially overshadowed by a second referendum on banning same-sex marriage in Wisconsin, which easily passed, 58 percent to 42 percent.
The referendum's sponsor, State Sen. Alan Lasee, R-De Pere, said that with the comfortable margin of voter support on the issue, he will pursue a pro-death penalty law in next year's legislative session. However, he conceded that the re-elected Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle would likely veto any such measure. A newly Democratic-controlled Senate will present another obstacle.
"At least we have a feel for what Wisconsin citizens are thinking," Lasee said, "and I'm obligated to introduce a bill."
Even if Republican Mark Green had won the gubernatorial election, Lasee said that it would take "a couple sessions: to clear all the legislative hurdles before a bill becomes a law.
"Long story short, I'm very happy and pleased with results of the referendum, and we'll see where it takes us," he said.
Opponents of the death penalty said that despite the outcome, the numbers weren't discouraging.
"I don't think the issue was whether we won or loss this particular vote," said Sachin Chheda, campaign director for No Death Penalty Wisconsin.
While Chheda said public poll results have "varied drastically" on the issue, he pointed to a Badger Poll, conducted by the University of Wisconsin Survey Center in July, that showed more people -- 50 percent to 45 percent -- favoring life imprisonment without parole than the death penalty when presented with that as an alternative.
"Unfortunately, that's not the honest question being asked today," he said.
The ballot question read: "Should the death penalty be enacted in the state of Wisconsin for cases involving a person who is convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, if the conviction is supported by DNA evidence?"
A more recent Badger Poll conducted last week showed 59 percent favored enacting the death penalty with 38 percent opposing when posed with the exact question that appeared on the ballot.
"The issue we learned (in this election) is that when Wisconsin citizens learn more about the death penalty, they like it less," Chheda said. "We're very encouraged."
Chheda also pointed to the referendum finding its way onto the ballot late in the legislative session.
"A lot of people who are going to go vote today won't know it's there," he said.
Lasee points to that same argument in discussing the challenges that he faced guiding the measure onto Tuesday's ballot, particularly in reference to DNA evidence that made it onto the ballot wasn't worded the way he had originally proposed it.
According to a statement from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, "the referendum question does not suggest what level of DNA evidence would be sufficient."
While the most brutal murders, such as confessed serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, "really cry out for tougher punishment," Lasee said, "there's a lot of 'ifs.'"
No Death Penalty Wisconsin's Web site lists nearly two-dozen state and national organizations as partners in its effort, including the Wisconsin Council on Churches, the Madison-area Urban Ministry, Amnesty International, and the League of Women Voters.
The death penalty is legal in 38 states, the federal government and the U.S. military.
That "Was Only Advisory" shouldn't be there.
Why shouldn't it be there? The referendum was only advisory.
Okay, so chalk up yet another win for a conservative position.
REPUBLICANS IN D.C.---what's left of you, are you starting to get the picture?
Conservative policies seem to be sweeping in most states even liberal one. Democrats promising to perform conservatively because Reps did not, are winning. Is this setting off a few bells among the leadership that followed McCain off his cliff for two years? Somehow I doubt it will penetrate their heads.
Jim Doyle said that he would veto any bill restoring the Death Penalty. And with the Democrats winning the WI assembly and Senate, we can kiss our guns goodbye too.
RATS won't be happy till the killing fields are here
has Wisconsin ever had the death penalty? I know there are some states that never have, well not since the 1850s (very liberal indeed for those times, I would have thought)
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