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Maryland House Approves Death Penalty Repeal

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There is still some disagreement about the likelihood of a death penalty repeal going up for referendum.
Matt Bush
There is still some disagreement about the likelihood of a death penalty repeal going up for referendum.

Update: 2:24 p.m.: The Maryland House of Delegates has voted 82-56 to repeal the death penalty. The measure now goes to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is expected to sign it.

Earlier story:

The Maryland House is expected to approve a repeal of the death penalty today. Since the Senate has already passed it, the measure would head to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who will sign it after seeking the repeal during his six years in office.

A voter referendum next year on the repeal seems likely, though Montgomery County Democratic senator Jamie Raskin isn't so sure. He supports the repeal.

"It costs millions of dollars extra to prosecute these cases," Raskin says. "And we'd be much better off putting that money into assistance to families of crime victims and other crime fighting measures. I think the public will also be persuaded of that."

Just last fall, Maryland voters decided four high-profile referenda — three of which made the ballot thanks to the website MDPetitions.com. Republican delegate Neil Parrott of western Maryland founded that site. He says right now he's unsure whether he will push petitions to get the death penalty repeal on the ballot.

"The problem that we have is that so much controversial legislation by this governor and the Annapolis elite that they're just not listening to the people," Parrott says. "So that is forcing more referenda than in the past."

A referendum could also be in doubt because of bills this session that would make petitioning a ballot question more difficult. Supporters of those measures, almost all Democrats, say that in the online age, the petitioning threshold to meet has become too easy to achieve.

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