Voters in Nebraska will decide a ballot measure on November 3, 2020, to repeal constitutional language allowing for enslavement and servitude as punishments for crime.
Like the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Nebraska State Constitution prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crimes.
Nebraska’s proposal to repeal the exception for criminal punishments follows a similar change that voters made in neighboring Colorado in 2018. Colorado Amendment A passed with 66.2 percent of the vote. The Utah and Vermont legislatures are also considering bills for ballot measures to repeal the criminal punishments exception from their state constitutions during their 2019 legislative sessions.
The unicameral Nebraska State Senate voted 44-0 to refer the constitutional amendment to the ballot. Sen. Justin T. Wayne (D-13) introduced the constitutional amendment.
The measure is the first certified in Nebraska for the 2020 ballot. The 2019 Nebraska legislative session is projected to run through June 6, 2019, during which time additional ballot measures could be referred. Citizen groups have until July 2020 to file signatures for ballot initiatives.
In Nebraska, voters have rejected 34 of 54 of the constitutional changes proposed by the state legislature between 1996 and 2018.