Residents in Colorado have an opportunity to vote during midterm elections on whether or not the state should amend the constitution to abolish slavery as a form of punishment.
Over 15 state constitutions in the United States permit slavery as a way of legal punishment for those who’ve committed a crime, despite the 13th Amendment being ratified in 1865. The unclear wording in Colorado’s constitution means “slavery and involuntary servitude may not be fully unconstitutional” according to the state’s ACLU chapter executive director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley.
However, voters will be given an opportunity to change the language of the state’s constitution so that slavery is no longer allowed as punishment. Residents will be given two options, to keep Article II Section 26 of the state’s constitution which reads “[there] “shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” Or choose Amendment A which will change the diction to “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude.”
Jumoke Emery of Abolish Slavery Colorado told CNN that voters almost got the amendment to pass two years ago, but blamed the legislators’ terminology for the outcome of the vote.
“I hope that this puts forth the message that our past doesn’t have to be our future, that by and large we as Americans are interested in fixing our mistakes and that there’s hope for our future,” Emery told the news outlet.
Those who are against amending the constitution say it’s not necessary because Colorado already bans slavery. They also argue that certain prisoner programs could be affected.
Nevertheless, Emery is hopeful that Amendment A will pass this time around.
“I hope that this puts forth the message that our past doesn’t have to be our future, that by and large we as Americans are interested in fixing our mistakes and that there’s hope for our future,” he said.