Utah, Nebraska vote to remove slavery language from state constitutions

The two states approved major changes to their individual constitutions winning over 50% of votes in favor of removing outdated verbiage.

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More was at stake on ballots around the country than the presidential election. This year, voters In Utah and Nebraska agreed to remove language in state constitutions that approved of slavery.

Read More: Mississippi lawmakers vote to remove Confederate emblem from flag

In Utah, Black leaders pushed for the change. As theGrio reported, House Rep. Sandra Hollins of Salt Lake City sponsored the bill, Amendment C, that included the removal of slavery references from Utah’s founding documents. The bill was supported by groups including the NAACP, the Utah Black Roundtable, Action Utah, the Alliance for a Better Utah, and the Greater Salt Lake Alumnae of Delta Sigma Theta.

“This language in our constitution, it was written 32 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It should never have been placed in our constitution,” Hollins said, according to the report.  “It no longer reflects Utah values. It’s not who we are as a state.”

The language in the constitution permitted slavery as a form of punishment for anyone convicted of a crime. Ballotpedia reported Utah Constitutional Amendment C passed with 80.61% of the votes in favor of removing the language.

In Nebraska, a similar amendment was passed with 68% of voters in support of removing the reference. Utan and Nebraska were among 12 state constitutions that ban slavery and involuntary servitude but include an exception for criminal punishment, with an additional nine state constitutions including provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery.

According to The Providence Journal Rhode Island also voted for a change. In a close decision, the state voted to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the more commonly known state name. 52.8% of voters were in favor of the update compared to 47.2% who opposed the change and hoped to keep the full name intact.

Official state seal of Rhode Island (Public domain)

Gov. Gina Raimondo supported the measure. She tweeted that the term was a reminder of “the ugliest time in our nation’s history.”

“Rhode Island is changing. Hugely. It makes me feel great that there is room for change,” Brother Gary Dantzler, a leader in the local Black Lives Matter movement, said to the outlet.

The13th Amendment to the United States Constitution still allows slavery as punishment.

“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.”

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