The state of Tennessee voted to officially ban slavery as a criminal offense in Tuesday’s midterm elections, but the result shocked social media.
Voters in the ruby-red state overwhelmingly supported a proposed amendment to the state constitution to remove language that would limit the use of prison labor, allow slavery or involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime.
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According to the secretary of state’s office, the amendment had more than 1.2 million yes votes, likely enough to ensure passage. A little less than four-fifths of voters said “yes” to this change, and a little more than 20 percent said “no.”
“Last night was a historic night in Tennessee. It’s the first time since 1870 that our constitution no longer protects the institution of slavery,” said Kathy Chambers, campaign director for the Yes 3 campaign. Newsweek.
“After years of bipartisan effort, we couldn’t be more proud of the citizens who recognize that slavery has no place in our state.”
“After years of bipartisan effort, we couldn’t be more proud of the citizens who recognize that slavery has no place in our state.” The campaign has been contacted for further comment.
However, some on social media were stunned that more than 300,000 voters said no to the proposed change.
“Incredibly disappointing that 20 percent of Tennesseans think slavery should still be legal,” sportscaster Jeff Roberts tweeted.
Author Quenton Albertie added, “316,000 wanted slavery in Tennessee. You’re all safe.”
Trey Graham he wrote: “What’s really mind-boggling about this headline is the story behind it: 20 percent of Tennessee voters chose tonight to KEEP slavery.”
“I have a deep hatred for these people in the South who can’t get rid of slavery until 2022. What year is that?” another Twitter user wrote.
While some tweeted that they were amazed that slavery was on the ballot in 2022, others wrote that while the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery, it allowed it as a punishment for a crime.
The Tennessee vote is part of a national effort to amend the 13th Amendment’s long-standing exception to forced labor by people convicted of certain crimes.
“Yes, actually prisoner slavery is clearly legal in America. There is a specific provision in the 13th Amendment that allows prisoners to be used as slaves” he tweeted Shehan Jeyarajah. “Prohibiting slavery as a punishment is a great thing and the right thing to do.”
About 20 states have constitutions that contain language authorizing slavery and involuntary servitude as a criminal penalty. Colorado became the first state to repeal the language through a ballot in 2018, followed by Nebraska and Utah in 2020.
Chambers noted that Tennessee “is a former slave state,[thestatewheretheKuKluxKlanwasfoundedandasredastateasyou’llfindyetwe’reover60percentvoterinall95countieseveninruralRepublicancounties”[KuKluxKlanınqurulduğuştatdırvətapabiləcəyinizqədərqırmızıbirştatdırhələdəbiz95əyalətinhamısındahəttakəndRespublikaəyalətlərindədə60faizdənçoxbəlisəsialmışıq”[KuKluxKlanwasfoundedandasredofastateasyou’llfindyetwegotover60percentyesvotesinall95countiesevenruralRepublicancounties”
Colorado “passed this amendment on its second try in 2018 by 65 percent yes, 35 percent no. Utah passed a similar amendment in 2020 by 80 percent yes, 20 percent no. Nebraska in 2020 68 percent yes, 32 percent adopted a similar amendment by voice vote. no,” he added. “Basically, we closed the Utah results. Considering our history, that’s pretty amazing!”
On Tuesday, voters in Alabama, Tennessee and Vermont approved measures to close those gaps. A vote in Oregon was too close to call Wednesday morning, but voters in Louisiana rejected a ballot question asking whether to support a constitutional amendment banning the use of involuntary servitude in the criminal justice system.
“So many people make fun of the slavery ballots, but maybe they don’t know that slavery is still allowed under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution,” tweeted Anthony Nash.
“A lot of these measures try to prevent that when they talk about how prisons treat prison staff.”
Update 11/9/22, 11:12 am ET: This article has been updated with additional commentary and a new photo from Kathy Chambers.
Update 11/9/22, 9:20 am ET: This article has been updated with a comment from Kathy Chambers.