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Maia Young: On Nov. 8, will history be made or will history repeat itself?

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This comment is from Maia Young, a second-year law student at Vermont Law & Graduate School from Missouri City, Texas. She is a double degree student for a law degree and a master’s degree in restorative justice.

2020 has been an unprecedented year in many ways. From a summer season of racial and civil unrest, in addition to a deadly public health crisis, 2020 was unlike anything else.

Although we are two years away, the impacts of 2020 remain. One particular impact of 2020 cannot be denied, and that is the impact the year had on black voting.

Nationally, 2020 was a monumental year as Black voter turnout, political power and Black involvement were at an all time high. It was published that in 2020, across the country, the number of registered black voters in the United States reached 30 million people. That number was significant because “more than a third of those voters live in key battleground states” such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Michigan and especially Georgia. The 2020 election intertwined community organizing and voter education to ensure intentional voter participation.

Unfortunately, neither that participation nor that effort was reflected in Green Mountain State, and that can be attributed to a lot of things. Of course, this can be blamed on the fact that Vermont is not a battleground or swing state, or on the population of the state of Vermont which has defeated almost all others as the second least populated state. , except that the real problem is inaction.

According to the 2020 United States Census, the entire black population of Vermont made up 1.4% of the approximate total of 650,000 individuals.

Shifting the focus from the substantially disproportionate population, for the 2020 election, it was reported that Vermont had one of the lowest minority voter rates in the nation. Specifically, “Vermont had the second-lowest percentage of black voters in the nation, at (only) 20 percent.”

Mention of this data is important because it could foreshadow the statewide elections on November 8. In an effort to alter the inevitable, allow this comment to point out the unacceptability of this possibility.

Of the 50 states, Vermont was the only state that did not pass anti-election legislation in the past 18 months. Additionally, automatic voter registration occurs when eligible Vermont residents receive their state driver’s license. The lack of explicit voter suppression in the state gives Vermont the classification of being the lowest voting state. And yet, people don’t vote and there is little effort to correct this.

Proposition 2 is on the next state ballot this year, and this proposition requires involvement. Proposition 2, if passed, would amend the Vermont Constitution to clearly express a prohibition on slavery.

Ironically, Vermont has always been said to be one of the first states to outlaw slavery in its state constitution – although the constitutional language reads otherwise.

Section 1 of the Constitution of Vermont reads in part, “…therefore no person born in this country, or brought from overseas, should be bound by law to serve any person as servant, slave or apprentice, after reaching the age of twenty-one, unless bound by the consent of the person, after attaining that age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs or otherwise.”

This common language has gaps in which, if interpreted according to the text, enslavement would be permitted – which, in this context, the verb “should” takes on a less prohibitive character and is rather more suggestive. The context does not explicitly place a prohibition on slavery, which creates a dangerous interpretation of this Constitution.

The necessary amendment to this wording, in the form of Proposition 2, symbolizes more than a vote at the ballot box; it is a call to action. By passage of the amendment, the Constitution would be reworded to say, “…therefore slavery and indentured servitude in any form shall be prohibited.”

There are criticisms of the implications of this constitutional amendment and its possible exclusion from work of incarcerated persons. Perhaps taking the radical approach of not forcing incarcerated people to engage in unpaid work is necessary.

The November 8 election requires action and intention. Vermont’s restrained action has been and remains insufficient with respect to the political participation of voters and communities that have historically been excluded, because it is equally bad inaction.

Ballot Proposition 2 focuses on the American history of black and brown slavery and its need for eradication and verbal erasure in a state constitution, and yet the most representative voters of this story are diminished from the conversation. This reality raises the question of history: will this year be done or will it be repeated? This answer belongs to all of us.

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Tags: Black Voters, enslavement, enslavement, Maia Young, Proposition 2

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