With almost every election cycle in Oklahoma, “law and order” is at or close to the top of the agenda. We’re pretty big on capital punishment, too. Oklahoma makes up 1.2% of the U.S. population, but accounts for 7.8% of all executions since 1976, the year the death penalty was once again sanctioned. Overall, for states with capital punishment, 71% of the executions were carried out by states won (18) by McCain and 29% were carried out by states (16) carried by Obama. Of the 16 states plus the District of Columbia without the death penalty, Obama won 12 and McCain won 4.
Four of the states (Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia) that swung from the Republican column in 2004 to the Democratic column in 2008 accounted for 54% of the executions carried out in states won by Obama. The 11 states that once comprised the Confederate States of America and make up the overwhelming portion of what today is considered the “Bible Belt” carried out 74% of the executions. Adding in executions carried out by four (West Virginia does not have the death penalty) of the five border states (states where slavery was legal but which did not secede) takes that percentage to 82% Those states overall also have some of the highest homicide rates in the U.S.
New Mexico repealed the death penalty in 2009 and New York did so in 2007; Kansas and New Hampshire have the death penalty but have not executed anyone since 1976. As well, South Dakota since 1976 has not executed anyone against their will; the state had one execution where the condemned chose not to appeal.
Why do states that overall have both high execution rates and high homicide rates also have populations that seemingly claim that faith is more central to their day-to-day living than many of those that live in other places?
The United Methodist Church (20% of its members are citizens of countries other than the United States) strongly condemns capital punishment. A key founder, John Wesley appears to have supported capital punishment while maintaining a strong understanding of a substantial link between poverty and crime.