Can’t Pay, Can’t Vote: A National Survey On The Modern Poll Tax

Felony convictions and court debt have become barriers to restoring voting rights for millions of people living in the U.S. This report  provides a history of poll taxes and explains how felony disenfranchisement serves as a barrier perpetuating the same inequality-producing results: African-Americans and poor people lose the right to vote and struggle to regain voting rights at disproportionate rates. The authors review state statutes and policies on voting rights restoration and poll taxes, including a discussion of Florida’s passage of Amendment 4 in 2018. 

You can read the full text of the report here.

Key findings
  • Based on the findings of a 2016 study, 6.1 million people in the U.S. were disenfranchised because of felony convictions. 
  • As of 2019, 30 states based a person’s right to vote on whether court fines and fees were satisfied; eight of those states explicitly require full payment of fines and fees before voting rights are restored, while twenty other states implicitly require payment of fines and fees as a condition of restoring voting rights by making those payments a requirement for completing probation or parole. Two states [Kentucky and Iowa] permanently disenfranchise people with felony convictions and require full payment of fines and fees for clemency eligibility.  
  • As of 2016, 1 in 13 African Americans versus 1 in 56 non-African Americans had their right to vote revoked. 
  • The process to apply for waivers for fines and fees is inconsistent  both in and across states and can be another barrier for people seeking to regain the right to vote.  
  • States should adopt policies that either discontinue felony disenfranchisement or restore voting rights immediately upon release 
Campaign Legal Center and Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic