Five States To Vote On Slavery (Yes, Slavery) In November
The 2022 elections have already shaped up to be among the most politically-charged midterm elections in some time. Among the many political races and laws that will be on the ballot in November, several states will be voting on a question that most of us had assumed had been settled long ago: rather to officially abolish slavery. Here’s what to know before voting in November.
Wait, isn't slavery already illegal?
Despite conservative attempts to whitewash history in recent years, those of us with even a cursory understanding of American history generally believe that slavery was abolished in the United States as a result of the Civil War. That is technically true. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Over time, every state in the U.S. has ratified the 13th Amendment, although the last state to do so was Mississippi in 2013.
Several states have yet to change state laws
The “except as a punishment for crime” clause in the 13th amendment, however, allowed southern states to criminalize Blackness in ways that let them retain some degree of forced labor, and over time it has contributed to the problem of mass incarceration in the U.S. The exception clause found in the 13th Amendment is similar to language found in the laws of several states. Five of those states — Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont — will vote in November on whether to remove those clauses from state law.
Removing slavery from state laws
Instagram account @so.informed posted a series of graphics explaining the particular questions on the ballots of each of these five states. All five states’ referendums proposed removing slavery or indentured servitude clauses from their state’s constitutions. If passed, the Tennessee and Vermont proposals would additionally add language to those states’ constitutions specifically clarifying that slavery or other forms of involuntary servitude are forbidden under all circumstances. The Alabama proposal, however, would result in the state “removing all racist language” from its constitution.