QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
DIDN'T WE ALREADY ABOLISH SLAVERY A LONG TIME AGO?
Yes and no.
Since 1875, the Nebraska Constitution has prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. That last part is known as "the exception clause," and it's a loophole that means slavery is, in fact, still technically legal in Nebraska.
And Nebraska isn't alone. Even the U.S. Constitution has an exception clause, and there is a growing movement to amend it, so we can finally finish the task of abolishing constitutional slavery. If you want to learn more, we recommend the movie 13th (available on Netflix).
WHAT WILL BE ON THE 2020 BALLOT?
What's on the ballot is "A constitutional amendment to eliminate slavery or involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime" (it's a mouthful, we know). This amendment was originally introduced by Senator Justin Wayne of Omaha, and it was passed with unanimous support by the Nebraska Legislature in 2019. That means it's up to the people of Nebraska to pass it again in November 2020!
Voting FOR the amendment will remove the exception clause that allows slavery as punishment for a crime. That means our state constitution will simply say: There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state.
WHY SHOULD I VOTE YES?
Simple: Because slavery is a moral wrong.
Nebraskans pride ourselves on being #NebraskaNice. We are people who value liberty and freedom.
Nothing could be further from those values than slavery.
IS THIS JUST A SYMBOLIC GESTURE?
You could call this a symbolic gesture, but it would be the understatement of the last two centuries. Words matter. Our state constitution is our most important moral and legal document. It is the very foundation of our society, and it should reflect our values. Removing this exception clause sends a powerful message about who we are and what we believe. And, even if this were "just" symbolic, that symbol is impactful and healing - especially in these divided times.
WILL THIS CHANGE COMMUNITY SERVICE PROGRAMS FOR PEOPLE IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM?
WHAT ABOUT INCARCERATED WORKERS?
No. Federal courts have already ruled that court-ordered community service does not violate the 13th Amendment's prohibition against slavery or involuntary servitude.
No. People incarcerated in Nebraska's correctional facilities are paid nominal wages for their labor.
HAVE OTHER STATES DEALT WITH THIS?
Yes. Many states have language in their constitutions which is identical or very similar to Nebraska's. And voters in many of those states are working for the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment like Amendment 1.
In 2018, Colorado became the first state to remove the exception clause from their constitution. We hope Nebraska becomes the second, but we have competition: Voters in Utah will have a similar ballot question this year, too!
HOW CAN I HELP?
First and foremost, please vote FOR the constitutional amendment to eliminate slavery, and tell everyone you know to do the same! We hope you will also consider making a donation, following us on social media, or asking your organization to make an endorsement! We will have an "Organizer Toolkit" page coming very soon, so stay tuned by signing up > here <