Nebraska votes to remove slavery language from state constitution

68% voted to remove, 32% voted to keep
Posted at 7:08 PM, Nov 04, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska Senator Justin Wayne introduced Nebraska Amendment One to the legislature last year. If passed, it would eliminate slavery as a punishment for a crime in the Nebraska Constitution. On Tuesday the amendment passed, 68 percent to 32 percent.

"My thing is 100 years from now when my great-grandkids are looking back at the state of Nebraska and looking at me as a state senator, I don't want slavery to be a part of that conversation," Senator Wayne said.

The language in question deals with the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.

Section 2, Article 1 states,"There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state, otherwise than for the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."

68 percent of Nebraskans voted to remove the language on Election Day, while 32 percent voted not to remove it.Officials say the wording of the ballot may have played a role in the results.

"People are reading it very quickly. Sometimes voting yes means no type of thing. Maybe for some voters that was the case," Chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party Jane Kleeb said.

While the wording may have been tricky for some, others intentionally wanted to keep the language to make sure criminals could still be punished.

In an opinion column for the North Platte Telegraph, Senator Mike Groene was against changing the wording saying, "This issue is not about the ownership of slaves but instead concerns the rehabilitation and punishment of individuals who have committed crimes against society."

Kleeb says it's more about the principle of slavery wording still being in the Nebraska Constitution in 2020.

"That word obviously carries a lot of racial connotations and awful memories and stain on our state and national history," she said.

The amendment ultimately passed and the wording will be removed.