Colorado voters, who were nearly alone among their Midwest and Rocky Mountain West neighbors in choosing Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, also decided to keep slavery in their state constitution or at least the option for it.
A proposal, Amendment T, that would have banned slavery was rejected by voters in the state, which in recent years has turned left, twice supporting Barack Obama before going for Clinton.
The pertinent section in the state constitution provides, “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.”
Opponents of the purposed change argued dropping the language could create uncertainty for prison work programs in the state.
The programs, they explained, “provide structure and purpose for … offenders, while enabling skill building and helping to reduce recidivism.”
They said “such practices have a place in the correctional system.”
In the Durango Herald, amendment supporters blamed poor wording on the ballots for the failure.
“They said that it was very confusing,” Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, said. “When they said they voted ‘no’ on Amendment T, I explained to them what Amendment T was about. … They were like, ‘That’s not how it read.’”
The Herald said that at a campaign launch for the initiative in August, one observer joked that only the KKK would oppose such a seemingly obvious measure.
“I know that Colorado does not value slavery,” committee member Sister Sharon Bridgeforth told the paper. “It has to be the language – people didn’t understand it.”
Promoters say they may take the issue, which was referred to the initiative process by the Legislature last session, to voters again.
But the road will be even rockier if there is a next time.
Colorado voters, in addition to choosing Clinton on Tuesday, also approved a change in the constitution to make it harder to change the constitution. Now, among other things, an initiative would need the support of a super majority of 55 percent of the voters to pass.