Saturday, February 4, 2023

Tennessee County with Most “No” Votes for Antislavery Amendment Posted Misleading Information

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Story by Matthew Giffin | News Editor

Cannon County’s Election Commission — whose county accumulated the most “no” votes for Amendment 3 to Tennessee’s state constitution in this year’s midterms — posted a sign bearing a misleading summary of the amendment in a voting booth, according to a Tennessee Lookout report. The commission also posted the same summary to its Facebook page on Nov. 7.

“Slavery is illegal in TN,” Cannon County’s Facebook post read. “Would you like to reword that prohibition in the TN Constitution?”

A screenshot of the Cannon County Election Committee’s Facebook post, which give a “third-grade rundown” of the state constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Tennessee’s state constitution provides for a legal exception to slavery when it is “a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted…” according to Article 1, Section 33. Amendment 3, which passed by nearly 80% of the vote, would remove that exception.

Amendment 3 passed in Cannon County by 66%, the lowest countywide percentage of “yes” votes for the amendment in this year’s midterms.

State law does not allow summaries of constitutional amendments aside from those provided by the state’s attorney general, Tennessee secretary of state spokesperson Julia Bruck said, according to the Tennessee Lookout.

“Why Cannon County drafted something beyond what the attorney general provided is a question for Cannon County,” Bruck said. “When distributing these summaries, our office instructed county election officials to remind their poll officials that the ballot speaks for itself.”

Cannon County Election Commissioner Matt Teply told the Tennessee Lookout he made a mistake, saying the commission intended for the Nov. 7 post to help election workers who were overwhelmed by questions about the amendments on the ballot.

The county’s election commission posted the Tennessee attorney general’s summary to its Facebook page Sept. 16.

“This amendment would change the current language in article I, section 33 of the Tennessee Constitution, which says that slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a person who has been duly convicted of crime, are forever prohibited in this State,” the summary read. “The amendment would delete this current language and replace it with the following language: ‘Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime.'”

Multiple states overwhelmingly passed antislavery legislation in this year’s midterms along with Tennessee.

To contact News Editor Matthew Giffin and Assistant News Editor Kailee Shores, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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