State Rep. now asking Louisiana residents to vote ‘no’ on his slavery amendment this year
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - There are eight constitutional amendments that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot in Louisiana.
That includes one about a form of slavery that has a lot of people talking.
Amendment 7 removes language from the state constitution that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime, thereby prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, except as it may be applied lawfully in the administration of criminal justice.
But because of those exceptions, the lawmaker who originally sponsored the proposal now wants people to vote no on the amendment.
House Bill 298 by State Representative Edmond Jordan (D), District 29, easily made its way through the State Capitol during the 2022 Legislative Session.
The amendment is now up to voters to put it into action. But now, State Rep. Jordan is crawfishing on the change.
“Hard to believe that in the 21st century there are some states, Louisiana included, that have laws on the books which seemingly condone slavery. So Edmond Jordan tried to change that and there were 30 lawmakers with him who were full-throated in front of this, including three Republicans. And now, Jordan has decided that the wording is such that it may actually do the opposite of what he intended, and he’s asking people to vote against it,” said Jim Engster, WAFB’s political analyst and president of the Louisiana Radio Network.
In a statement to WAFB, State Rep. Jordan says, “The way that the ballot language is stated is confusing. And the way that it was drafted, it could lead to multiple different conclusions or opinions. Because of the ambiguity of how it was drafted, I’m asking that people vote against it, so that we can go and clean it up with the intent of bringing it back next year and making sure that the language is clear and unambiguous.”
So, he’d rather people vote no on the amendment so lawmakers have a chance to start over fresh next year.
“This is a process that will take some time and lawmakers may be frustrated by this exercise, and we’ll see what happens. But it’s not a very good sign when the sponsor has to say, ‘Hey wait a minute, let’s not do this,’” said Engster.
Engster says the devil is in the details. He says one phrase in the amendment, “Except as it may be applied lawfully in the administration of criminal justice,” opens up Pandora’s box.
“The amendment on the surface does away with slavery. Who wants slavery? Not in the 21st century, I don’t think anybody really wants slavery, but the amendment is such that it may, according to the sponsor, do exactly the opposite of what it was intended,” said Engster.
There has been some pushback from others as well.
The Council for a Better Louisiana says, “This amendment is an example of why it is so important to get the language right when presenting constitutional amendments to voters.”
But folks with the Victory Over Louisiana Violence Organization are still urging people to vote yes on Amendment 7.
“We believe that this is the cornerstone to the injustices that happened, and we believe this will be a first step into getting people back their individual dignity. Removing the exception clause to slavery is removing the keystone to the injustices we face as a society today. After two years of hard work, we have pushed 157 years into the hands of the voters. We believe in letting the people decide the future of our children not just the elected and selected,” said Laramie Griffin with Evolve Louisiana.
Louisiana is one of five states in which slavery is on the ballot this fall, according to the Associated Press.
State Representative Jordan says, “Regardless of what happens, we’re going to have to bring it back to get it cleared up either way.”
So this could end up being on your ballot again in 2023 even if it passes in two weeks.
“But either way, it is my intent to bring it back next year and make sure that the language is clearer, and that there is no confusion,” said Jordan.
When it comes to proposals ending prison labor in its entirety, that will likely still face massive opposition in the courts.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
To learn more about the eight amendments on the ballot, click here.
Three other measures (amendments) were certified for the Dec. 10 ballot.
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