This November all voters in Colorado will have the opportunity to cast ballots on two statewide ballot measures. Many state residents, especially those who are politically active, are likely already familiar with the ColoradoCare Initiative, also called Amendment 69.
Voters may be less familiar though with the other statewide ballot measure called Amendment T, or more commonly referred to as the, “No Exception to Involuntary Servitude Prohibition Amendment”.
If you peruse the State of Colorado’s 2016 Ballot Blue Book later this fall you may be somewhat surprised by the language of the Amendment, which references slavery. The Amendment would simply remove the last half of a sentence in Section 26, Article II of the Colorado Constitution that, technically speaking, allows slavery or involuntary servitude as punishments for crime. The text was adopted in the nineteenth century.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery within the US and also included provisions outlawing “involuntary servitude”; though the amendment does include language allowing such “punishment” for “duly convicted” crimes.
The current text of the Colorado Constitution’s Article II Section 26 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.”
Amendment T would remove the last half of the sentence above. If approved by voters in Nov. the new text of Article II Section 26 of the Colorado Constitution would read, “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude.”
Unlike Colorado’s other statewide ballot measure, which is highly contentious, Amendment T is not really part of the larger partisan political divide and is primarily an attempt to remove outdated language from Colorado’s founding document.
Amendment T is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. The measure received unanimous support from both the Colorado House and Colorado Senate with 100 percent of State Senators and Representatives supporting the measure. The Colorado Senate approved referring the measure to the Nov. ballot on April 26 with all 35 Senators voting in favor. The Colorado House voted just a few days later, on May 4, with all 65 Representatives voting in favor.
The approval of Amendment T and the striking of text technically allowing slavery is primarily a symbolic move seeking to remove archaic language. The campaign to approve Amendment T is being led by Together Colorado, a non-partisan, faith-based multi-racial community organization made up primarily of faith leaders and church congregations from throughout the state.
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