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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.

Personal Narrative: Lance

Lance's New York driver's license was suspended in 1993 and remained suspended for the duration of his incarceration. The court costs and other fines and fees accrued during this time. After his release from prison in Pennsylvania, he moved home with his wife and together, the two of them worked to pay off the fines. Lance was only working minimum wage when he first came home, making an already arduous process that much slower and even more tedious.

Personal Narrative: Joseph

Joseph's involvement with law enforcement that led to a suspended license was the result of a DUI for smoking marijuana in 2014. Five years later, his license has still not been reinstated.

Personal Narrative: Bailey

Bailey Carter was out of work when she received two traffic tickets and her lack of income prevented her from settling this debt immediately. Consequently, her license was suspended.

Personal Narrative: Nichole

Nichole, a rural California resident, received four tickets during a single traffic stop, costing her $4000. When she could not afford to pay this total amount, her license was suspended. This court debt was such a burden that it prevented her from paying her electric bill, causing her utilities to be shut off and her landlord to evict her.

Personal Narrative: Jason

Jason’s only license suspension stems from a ticket for having two broken car lights. Following the police stop, he never received anything in the mail with information regarding how to pay the ticket or the date and time of his court date. However, about nine months after he was stopped, Livingston was shocked and confused when he received a letter stating that a default judgment was entered against him, he owed the court approximately $850, and his license was suspended.

Personal Narrative: Chris S.

Chris S.’s driver’s license was suspended five times for failure to pay fines. He never received prior notice that his license was being suspended. He never had an opportunity to explain why it should not be suspended.

Personal Narrative: Kimberly S.

: Kimberly S. is a mother of three who battled to overcome drug addiction. She has been convicted of failure to pay 10 times in the last four years, each time incurring $450 to $670 in additional debt, and sentences of as much as 30 days in jail.

Personal Narrative: Russell

During the early morning of January 2, 2019, Russell was pulled over for his headlight and the officer informed him that his license was suspended. Russell had no idea that his license was suspended and later found out that it was because he had unpaid tickets from 5 to 6 years ago.
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