Slavery permitted under one condition in Ohio, legislature could ask voters to change that

Slavery permitted under one condition in Ohio, legislature could ask voters to change that
Ohio Statehouse. Getty Images

COLUMBUS — A joint resolution introduced in May by Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) is asking the General Assembly to go to voters to remove the section of the Ohio Constitution that still permits slavery in the state.

Article I, Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution currently reads “there shall be no slavery in this state; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime.”

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The legislation is asking for the General Assembly to approve a measure for the November 2020 ballot that would ask voters whether they would be for or against removing “unless for punishment of crime.” from that section of the Constitution.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office requires Constitutional amendments proposed by a joint resolution be filed with the secretary of state by Aug. 5 (or 90 days before general election) to be put on the ballot, according to the elections calendar.

However, the Ohio House will not be in session to vote on the resolution until September, so it’s possible the piece of legislation would have to be amended to be placed on a later ballot.

Three-fifths of both the Ohio Senate and House would have to vote in favor of the joint resolution for it to go to voters.

Galonski is not the only lawmaker at the state house pushing for the change.

Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Avondale) announced he too would introduce a joint resolution to remove the exception for slavery. Thomas’ announcement coincided with last Friday’s Juneteenth holiday.

“This archaic exception for slavery should be removed,” Thomas said. “It speaks to the inhumane treatment of Black Americans as chattel and does not belong in the supreme law of Ohio, our Constitution.”

According to Ohio law, “either branch of the General Assembly may propose amendments to this constitution; and, if the same shall be agreed to by three-fifths of the members elected to each house, such proposed amendments shall be entered on the journals, with the yeas and nays, and shall be filed with the secretary of state at least ninety days before the date of the election at which they are to be submitted to the electors, for their approval or rejection.”

The proposed amendments can be voted on in a general or special election.

The section of the Constitution under consideration for change was passed in 1851.