Supporters Rally to Abolish Slavery from Colorado Constitution, Amendment to Appear on Nov. Ballot

· Aug. 27, 2018, 1:53 pm
Photo: Colorado Constitution (AP Photo)AP
Reference librarian Sarah Gilmor holds an 1876 copy of the Colorado Constitution at the Stephen H. Hart Library & Research Center in Denver.

Published 9:55 a.m. | Updated 10:32 a.m.

Supporters of an amendment to remove slavery from the Colorado Constitution will rally in Denver Tuesday. The Amendment A campaign launches at 2 p.m. at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Denver's City Park.

Legislators voted this session to put Amendment A on the November ballot.

If passed, the measure would remove language that allows for slavery or involuntary servitude as punishment for crime:

Article II, Section 26 of the Colorado Constitution, July 1, 1876:

"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."

Photo: Colorado Constitution, Sec. 26 Slavery Mention | AP Photo, PBandaAP
A close-up of an 1876 copy of the Colorado Constitution — looking at Sec. 26, which contains an exception under which slavery could be used as punishment for a crime — at the Stephen H. Hart Library & Research Center in Denver.

A new version of Article II, Section 26 would end at, "There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude."

"It's incredibly important because the constitution isn't just a symbol," said Jumoke Emery with Abolish Slavery Colorado. "It's something that is living and breathing it stands as the basis for all the laws in our state."

An identical measure, Amendment T, failed by a narrow margin in 2016 possibly due to unclear wording on the ballot.

"In 2016, it was grammatically imprecise," Emery said. "It was a bit of a double negative in terms of whether you wanted to vote for slavery or if you were voting to abolish."

This time around, supporters have tried to make ballot language clear that a “yes” vote means "abolishing slavery" and a “No” vote keeps slavery in the state's constitution, Emery said.

Voters in 2016 also had concerns that the amendment would make prison work and community service programs unconstitutional. 

Such work programs are not affected by the amendment because they are voluntary, said Will Dickerson, formerly of the Denver nonprofit Together Colorado, in a 2016 interview with CPR News.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify Dickerson no longer works for Together Colorado.

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