North Carolina still uses a modern-day poll tax when it comes to allowing residents with felony convictions to vote, according to a new report from the Civil Rights Clinic at Georgetown Law School and the Campaign Legal Center.
“Nearly six million individuals are denied the right to vote in the United States due to a past conviction, and, for many of those individuals, the ability to vote is contingent upon their ability to pay an increasing number of fines, fees, court costs, and restitution,” the report states.
Can’t Pay, Can’t Vote shows that all but two states have laws in place that disenfranchise residents who are convicted of certain crimes. The majority of states condition rights restoration, either explicitly or implicitly, on the payment of legal financial obligations, including in North Carolina.
The state requires payment of fines and fees as a prerequisite for voting rights restoration by requiring completion of parole and or probation — which also costs a separate fee. The Sentencing Project estimated in 2016 that 51,845 North Carolinians who were not incarcerated were disenfranchised because of their felony record.
Court fines and fees in North Carolina have skyrocketed over the past couple decades, and it can take individuals years to pay off their debt. It can also lead to an extension of probation and or parole and a delay in the restoration of their voting rights.
“These policies impose a modern day poll tax on individuals with past convictions: but for their inability to pay, otherwise eligible individuals
are denied the right to vote,” the report states.
To ensure legal debt does not disenfranchise American citizens, the report recommends states adopt policies that either eliminate felony disenfranchisement entirely or restore the right to vote upon release from incarceration. Read the full report below.