Involuntary servitude on the ballot

Welcome to the Tuesday, June 7, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Louisiana joins growing list of states deciding ballot measures on involuntary servitude this year
  2. Number of contested state legislative primaries is up 34% compared to 2020
  3. South Dakota is holding statewide primaries today

Louisiana joins growing list of states deciding ballot measures on involuntary servitude this year

Louisiana became the fifth state to place a measure regarding involuntary servitude on the ballot this year. On June 1, the Louisiana Senate approved a legislatively-referred amendment that would remove language from the state constitution allowing involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime.

In Louisiana, constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote from each chamber to appear on the ballot. The House approved the measure on May 3.

Each state’s legislature placed its involuntary servitude measures on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. Of those five states, one is a Democratic trifecta, two are Republican trifectas, and two—including Louisiana—have divided government.

Here are the rest, with additional descriptions of those measures:

  • Alabama: Ratifies an updated and recompiled state constitution drafted to remove racist language, among other changes. The existing section stating “[N]o form of slavery shall exist in this state; there shall not be any involuntary servitude, otherwise than for the punishment of crime” would be removed.
  • Oregon: Removes language that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments and adds language authorizing an Oregon court or probation or parole agency to order alternatives to incarceration for a convicted individual as part of sentencing.
  • Tennessee: Removes language allowing slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments and replaces it with the statement, “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited.”
  • Vermont: Removes language stating that people could be held as servants, enslaved people, or apprentices with their consent or for paying debts and adds “slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.”

Currently, nine state constitutions include provisions permitting involuntary servitude, and 10 included provisions permitting slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. These provisions were added to state constitutions, in their original forms, between the 1850s and 1890s. The United States ratified the 13th Amendment prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude in 1865, except as punishment for crimes.

The legislative efforts to remove this language from state constitutions kicked off in 2018 when voters in Colorado approved Amendment A with 66% of the vote. Voters in two states—Nebraska and Utah—voted to remove similar language from their respective constitutions in 2020. Nebraska voters approved Amendment 1 with 68% of the vote. In Utah, voters approved Constitutional Amendment C with 80% of the vote. One state, Rhode Island, has included constitutional language prohibiting slavery since 1843.

Keep reading

Number of contested state legislative primaries is up 34% compared to 2020

There are 34% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 68% more Republican primaries and 18% more top-two/top-four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 9%.

We’ve been providing regular updates about the elevated number of contested state legislative primaries throughout the election cycle. Our last update included 20 states. This week, these figures include chambers holding elections in 24 states that account for 2,952 (48%) of the 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year.

A primary is contested when more candidates are running than available nominations, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Since our last Brew update on May 24, we have added post-filing deadline data from Colorado, Missouri, South Carolina, and Utah. Overall, six states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 15 have Republican trifectas, and three have divided governments.

Of the 24 states in this analysis, 22 are holding partisan primaries. Two states—California and Nebraska—use top-two primaries.

The number of Democratic primaries has increased in nine states, decreased in 10, and remains the same in two. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 21 states and decreased in one. The table below shows partisan statistics for the three states with the largest increases and decreases by party so far.

Use the link below to view these topline figures and additional state-specific statistics.

Keep reading 

South Dakota is holding statewide primaries today

Happy Super Tuesday! June 7 is the busiest day on the 2022 election calendar, with seven states holding primaries nationwide. Today, let’s take a closer look at one of those states—South Dakota—including the races on the ballot and how their primaries work.

There are three statewide offices on the ballot today—U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and governor—but only for registered Republicans. South Dakota cancels uncontested primaries and since only one Democrat filed for the Senate and gubernatorial races and none filed for the U.S. House, Democratic and independent voters will only have contested races at the state legislative or municipal level.

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R) is running in a contested primary against two challengers. Thune, first elected in 2004, is seeking his fourth term. Only one other South Dakota Senator has served four terms: Karl Mundt (R), who served from 1948 to 1973. 

In the state’s at-large congressional district, U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R), first elected in 2018, is seeking re-election and faces a contested primary.

Finally, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is seeking a second term and faces a contested primary challenge from former House Speaker Steven Haugaard (R).

All 105 state legislative seats—70 in the House and 35 in the Senate—are also up for election. Republicans currently hold a 62-8 majority in the House and a 32-3 majority in the Senate.

There are more contested state legislative primaries in South Dakota this year than at any point since 2014. After the state’s filing deadline, the number of contested primaries was up 41% compared to 2020. The number of contested Democratic primaries remained the same at two while Republican contests increased by 44%.

While some voters may have different ballots depending on their party registration, every voter will have at least one item on their June 7 ballots: Constitutional Amendment C. This legislatively-referred amendment would require at least 60% of the vote to approve ballot measures that increase taxes or fees or requiring the state to appropriate $10 million or more within the first five fiscal years. Currently, these measures require a simple majority for approval.

If approved, the 60%-vote provision would apply to Constitutional Amendment D, which has qualified for the November general election ballot and would expand Medicaid coverage.

If you have primaries coming up, use Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup to see what’s on your ballot and bring your choices to the polls with our My Vote app!
Keep reading