The United
States is voting for the midterms to elect a Senate and a House of Representatives
on November 8. But along with choosing representatives, states are also laying
out for voters to weigh on some of the most politically charged issues of the
day. In such an attempt, Tennessee will vote on four proposed amendments to the
state constitution. One such amendment seeks to do away with slavery as a punishment
for crime.

The referendum
is on an amendment that would update the language in the state constitution.
Right now, the Tennessee state constitution while outlawing slavery, retains
language from 1870 that states: “That slavery and involuntary servitude, except
as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,
are forever prohibited in this state.”

This time,
voters in Tennessee will choose if they seek to change the language to outlaw
slavery in all contexts, including doing away with the clause even as a
punishment for crime.

suggestion was first made by Senator Raumesh Akbari (Democrat-Memphis) called
for changing the language of the constitution. If the amendment were to pass,
it would reword the clause to remove the connection between slavery and

and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall
prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime,”
is expected rewording.

Tennesseans maybe prisoners, but, by God, they will not be slaves. We are the
first Southern State to embrace universal abolition,” said Representative Joe
Towns (D-Memphis).

In order for
the constitutional amendments to go through, people must vote yes or no. A ‘yes’
vote would choose to amend the state constitution while a ‘no’ vote would mean
keeping the current language.

For an
amendment to pass, the amendment must get yes votes than no votes and the
number of yes votes in the gubernatorial election, meaning the number of yes
votes must be more than half the number of votes cast in the governor’s race
for the amendment to pass.