A study released today by the Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty finds that Republican support of the death penalty significantly decreased over the past seven years.
From 2000 to 2012, the number of Republican lawmakers who sponsored death penalty repeal bills never rose above single digits. But in 2013, Republican sponsors repealing the death penalty doubled — and it rose to 40 sponsors by 2016.
Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty argues that ending the death penalty is not a liberal issue, citing that 40 percent of the Republicans that sponsored repeal bills were from red states.
In a news conference held by the group today, state representatives and senators from across the U.S. spoke about why they believe the death penalty should not exist, citing both moral and religious reasons.
“This is a pro-life issue, a Christian issue, a Catholic issue,” said Washington State Sen. Mark Miloscia. “For me it’s a personal and faith issue to be on this journey here to make sure all of our citizens are protected. We work for redemption.”
Others cited limited government and fiscal concerns that indicate capital punishment is a moral and financial burden.
“This is a system that is broken; we shouldn’t trust this system when we’re got the evidence to show that it doesn’t work,” said former Nebraska state Sen. Colby Coash. Nebraska was the first red state to abolish the death penalty.
The report shows a major shift from 2012 to 2013. In 2012, there were only nine Republican sponsors of death penalty repeal. In 2013, the number jumped to 20. The authors of the study point to the actions of then governor George Ryan of Illinois as the turning point for Republican support of the death penalty repeal. Ryan placed a state-based moratorium on executions in 2000 — the first in the nation. This led other state level leaders to question their stances on the death penalty.
The five states with the highest number of Republican sponsors — Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, Montana, and Nebraska — were all red states.
Read the full report here.