States Look To Change Outdated Language In Constitution That Allows Slavery

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Five states are looking to update their constitutions to finally get rid of antiquated language that allows slavery and involuntary servitude to serve as punishment for some crimes.

This year, voters in Louisiana, Alabama, Vermont, Oregon, and Tennessee will decide whether to modernize their states' constitutions still embedded with rhetoric from slavery, The Hill reports.

The Louisiana State Senate recently voted in favor of adding a measure to this year's ballot that would change the constitution's language to explicitly make all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude illegal. The current language of the constitution prohibits involuntary servitude "except in the latter case as punishment for crime," a clause that will be eliminated if voters approve.

The newly proposed constitutions in Tennessee and Vermont go farther than simply discarding clauses that accept involuntary servitude as a form of punishment for crimes. Both states are looking to incorporate specific measures that would proactively prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude.

If voters approve, Tennessee will add the word "forever" to its new constitution clause.

State House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said in a statement, “As we work to ensure that all Vermonters are treated equally and fairly, it is crucial that we amend the archaic language of the Constitution to emphasize that slavery and indentured servitude in any form and for persons of any age are prohibited."

Though never used, 19 states across the nation still allow slavery or involuntary servitude as punishments for crimes in their constitutions, The Hill reports.

Constitutions in Oregon, Nevada, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi still use antiquated language that allows for slavery. Involuntary servitude is still included in the founding documents of California, Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana.

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