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CLC, Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic Report -- "Can't Pay, Can't Vote.: A National Survey on the Modern Poll Tax," 2019

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Can’t Pay,
Can’t Vote:
A NATIONAL SURVEY

ON THE MODERN POLL TAX

Table of
Contents

Executive Summary	

4

Introduction	

7

Part I: History and Context	

13

A. Poll Taxes	

13

B. Felony Disenfranchisement and Voting Rights Restoration	

14

Part II: Felony Disenfranchisement Meets The	
Poll Tax 	

19

A. Court Fines and Fees Are Steep and Far‑Reaching	

19

B. 30 States Hinge Voting Rights Restoration on Ability to Pay LFOs	

21

1. Eight states across the country have explicitly included some form of
this modern poll tax in their election laws
2. Two states have permanent disenfranchisement and require payment
of LFOs for clemency eligibility
3. Twenty states implicitly require payment of fines and fees as a
prerequisite for voting rights restoration by requiring completion of
parole and/or probation
3. Twenty states and the District of Columbia do not condition the right
to vote upon payment of fines and fees
4. Certain states allow returning citizens to apply for waivers of LFOs

Conclusion	

33

Appendix	

34

Note on Methodology	

34

Table 1: Survey of Disenfranchisement Laws	

36

Table 2: Poverty Rates of States with Modern Poll Taxes	

37

Table 3: 2016 Sentencing Project Estimates of Disenfranchisement	

38

Table 4: Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements for Voting Rights 	

41

Restoration

Executive Summary
Poll taxes, or taxes imposed on otherwise eligible
voters as a condition of voting, were abolished
across the country during the 1960s, with the
ratification of the Twenty‑Fourth Amendment and
the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Harper v.
Virginia State Board of Education that wealth is
not germane to voting. Since then, however,
felony disenfranchisement statutes, mass
incarceration, and the monetization of the carceral
state have combined to create a modern‑day
equivalent to the poll tax—one that is imposed
only on those individuals caught up in the criminal
justice system. 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

1	

4

their ability to pay an increasing number of fines,
fees, court costs, and restitution.
All but two states1 have laws in place that
disenfranchise citizens who are convicted of
certain crimes. In a growing number of states,
voting rights are restored automatically when an
individual is released from incarceration,
regardless of any outstanding legal debt. But,
the majority of states condition rights restoration,
either explicitly or implicitly, on the payment of
legal financial obligations. As a result, whether
an individual is able to vote after being convicted
of a crime depends on his or her ability to pay off
outstanding legal debt. For many individuals, it
may take years to pay off legal debt, extending

As this report was being published, lawmakers in the District of Columbia announced they would introduce a bill to repeal D.C.’s
felony disenfranchisement laws. If passed, D.C. would join Maine and Vermont as the third jurisdiction in the country to allow
people to vote regardless of any conviction. See Fenit Nirappil, Felons from D.C. Could Be Able to Vote from Prison Under
Proposed Bill, Wash. Post (June 3, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/incarcerated-prisoners-from-dccould-have-their-voting-rights-restored/2019/06/02/2194847a-854e-11e9-98c1-e945ae5db8fb_story.html.

the period of disenfranchisement long past the
person’s release from incarceration. And, for
individuals whose economic circumstances
preclude them from paying off their fines and
fees, disenfranchisement is permanent.
This report provides one of the first comprehensive
studies of how voting rights restoration schemes
deny the right to vote to those who cannot afford
to pay legal debt. It finds that at least 30 states
continue to disenfranchise some of their citizens
based on wealth.
Well over half of the disenfranchised population
in the United States is no longer incarcerated but
is living in a state that could deny them their right
to vote based on their ability to pay legal debt.2
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. As they currently
exist, anemic, limited, and confusing waiver
processes do not provide an effective avenue for

2	

indigent voters to regain their right to vote. Given
the skyrocketing amount of legal financial
obligations imposed on individuals caught up in
the criminal justice system, substantial reforms
are necessary to create a more equitable and
representative democracy.
To ensure legal debt does not disenfranchise
American citizens, states should adopt policies
that either eliminate felony disenfranchisement
entirely or restore the right to vote upon release
from incarceration.

Any policy that restricts access to the
right to vote based on completion of parole
or probation risks wealth‑based
disenfranchisement absent sufficient
safeguards to ensure that legal debt does
not prolong supervised release.

See Appendix, Table 3.

8 STATES include explicit payment
requirements within their election laws

In 2019, at least

2 STATES retain permanent disenfranchisement
laws and require payment of legal debt for
clemency eligibility.

continue to
disenfranchise some
of their citizens
based on wealth:

20 STATES require completion of parole and/
or probation for voting rights restoration and
payment of legal debt is included as a
condition of parole or probation.

30 STATES

5

The Twenty‑Fourth
Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution explicitly
bars the use of poll taxes
in federal elections.

Introduction
The Twenty‑Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
to the U.S. Constitution bar the use of poll taxes
in voting. Despite this prohibition, states that
disenfranchise individuals with felony convictions
often condition the restoration of voting rights
on payment of various fines, fees, and other legal
financial obligations. As criminal codes expand
and rates of incarceration have swelled, millions
of citizens have lost their right to vote due to
felony disenfranchisement provisions. For far too
many of these individuals, access to the ballot
depends on whether they have the resources to
pay their fines and fees.

In short, the rise in criminal
disenfranchisement has provided
states with a new way to disenfranchise
citizens on the basis of wealth.
Felony disenfranchisement laws vary from state
to state, but every state except for Vermont and
Maine revokes the franchise as punishment for
the commission of certain felony crimes, at least
dur ing inc arcer ation. Provisions for
re‑enfranchisement vary across states as well. A
growing number of states provide for restoration

of voting rights at the time a person leaves prison.
In many states, however, the restoration of voting
rights hinges either explicitly or implicitly on the
payment of fines and fees. This practice imposes
a modern poll tax as a precondition of voting on
those who interact with the criminal justice system.
As the number of felony convictions and the rate
of incarceration have swelled, millions of citizens’
access to the franchise has been jeopardized
because the ability to cast a ballot depends on
whether they can pay their fines and fees.
Given the well‑documented racial disparities
within the criminal justice system, these modern
poll taxes—like poll taxes in the pre‑Civil Rights
era—are imposed disproportionately on people
of color. They also have a disproportionate impact
on the poor. Not only does living in poverty
dramatically increase an individual’s risk of
incarceration,3 and therefore, disenfranchisement,
but a prior criminal conviction can often limit
opportunities for employment and increase the
risk of living in poverty post‑incarceration.4 Faced
with limited economic resources and
opportunities, formerly incarcerated individuals
often struggle to keep up with, much less pay
entirely, legal financial obligations resulting from
their past convictions.

3	

Bernadette Rabuy & Daniel Kopf, Prisons of Poverty, PRISON POL’Y INITIATIVE (July 9, 2015),
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/income.html (last visited June 5, 2019).

4	

Adam Looney & Nicholas Turner, Work and Opportunity Before and After Incarceration, BROOKINGS INST. (2018), 
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/es_20180314_looneyincarceration_final.pdf; Devah Pager, The Mark of
a Criminal Record, 108 Am. J. SOCIOLOGY. 937, 960 (2003).

7

Individuals with prior convictions
can be barred from the polls for life
if unable to pay the amount required
to regain their right to vote.
Through our Restore Your Vote
campaign, CLC has worked closely
with dozens of individuals who have
been turned away from the polls
because they do not have the wealth
to buy back their right to vote.
These are some of their stories.

Bonnie Raysor
Bonnie Raysor is 58 years old, and a resident of
Boynton Beach, Florida.5 She has lived in Florida
since she was 17 years old. After becoming
addicted to opioids, Ms. Raysor was convicted in
October 2010 on six felony drug‑related charges.
She was sentenced to and served eighteen
months in prison. Ms. Raysor now works as an
office manager, making thirteen dollars per hour.
She has mortgage and car payments. She also
supports her 19-year-old daughter, who is a
full‑time student.
Voting is very important to Ms. Raysor, and she
was thrilled when Florida passed Amendment 4
in 2018 because she believed it would restore her
voting rights. But Ms. Raysor has $4,260 in
outstanding fines and fees, and under a newly
enacted Florida law, she is unable to register to
vote until she pays off that balance.

Ms. Raysor pays thirty dollars per
month on a court‑ordered payment plan
based on her current ability to pay.
Under this payment plan, Ms. Raysor
will not be able to vote until

2031.

5	

8

Bonnie Raysor, Opinion: Florida Is Trying to Silence Me With a Poll Tax, Tampa Bay Times (May 6, 2019),
https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/column-florida-is-trying-to-silence-me-with-a-poll-tax-20190506/.

Edna Kathleen Lewis
Edna Kathleen Lewis lives in her home state of
Florida with her husband, a disabled veteran.
Despite completing her probation following a
sentence for identity theft and theft of property,
Ms. Lewis is unable to vote because she has
outstanding fines and fees related to her
conviction. Now 60 and living on Social Security
disability benefits, Ms. Lewis pays approximately
$126 a month toward her fines and fees balance
and has done so for more than four years without
once missing a payment.

At that rate, Kathleen will be 95 years
old before she pays off her fines to
be eligible to vote again.

Restore Your Vote
In collaboration with the Alabama Voting Rights
Project,6 Restore Your Vote organizers also assisted
a resident of Baldwin County, Alabama. She was
charged with and pled guilty to two counts of
theft of property because she failed to report her
ex‑partner’s income on her application for the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP). He used to stay at her residence, and she
did not realize that he had stayed at her home
often enough to trigger a reporting requirement.
She now owes a total of $19,205.90 in debt related
to her conviction.
Her failure to list her ex‑partner’s income on her
SNAP application cost her the right to vote. She
has described receiving the letter from the
Baldwin County Board of registrars—informing
her that she could not register to vote—as the

most hurtful consequence of her conviction. She
has had trouble securing employment with a theft
conviction on her record, making it even more
difficult to pay her legal financial obligations.

Unless she can find a
way to pay off the

$19,205.90

she owes to the state,
she will not be able to vote again.

Treva Thompson
Treva Thompson is a resident of Huntsville,
Alabama.7 In 2005, she got in the only legal trouble
of her life when she confessed to her supervisor
after committing a theft. She was convicted of a
single count of a theft crime related to her prior
employment. She never served time in prison for
this single non‑violent felony conviction.
Nonetheless, Ms. Thompson cannot vote because
she owes $44,000 in restitution. She makes ten
dollars per hour and struggles to pay even fifty
dollars per month toward the balance. At this rate,
it will take her seventy‑four years to pay off her
restitution and be able to vote again.

Ms. Thompson has grandchildren, nieces,
and nephews, and wants to be able to have
a say in our electoral process—to speak for
her own and her family’s interests.
She believes it is wrong to be denied the right to
vote simply because she cannot pay. She is the
lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against Alabama
challenging this requirement.8

6	

For more information on the Alabama Voting Rights Project, please visit https://www.alabamavotingrights.com/.

7	

Hear Ms. Thompson’s story in her own words in Uncounted, CAMPAIGN LEGAL CTR. (Nov. 29, 2017),
https://youtu.be/MooNBLuN-no.

8	

Thompson v. Alabama, No. 2:16-cv-783-WKW (M.D. Ala. filed Sept. 16, 2016).

9

Alfonzo Tucker Jr.
Alfonzo Tucker Jr. of Tuscaloosa, Alabama
remembers how excited he was to cast his ballot
in the 2008 and 2012 elections.9 After the 2012
election, however, Mr. Tucker received a letter
informing him that the state had purged him from
the voter rolls because of a disqualifying
conviction from 1992. At the time of his conviction,
Mr. Tucker was assessed $1,515 in fines and fees.
He signed up for a payment plan and paid $1,511
towards his fines and fees. But because he failed
to pay just four dollars of the total amount, the
state imposed a late fee of $135.
When Mr. Tucker applied for voting rights
restoration, he was informed he could not regain
his right to vote until he paid the full amount owed.
Under Alabama law, however, late fees do not
render a person ineligible for rights restoration.
Mr. Tucker should have been only required to pay
the four dollars remaining from his original fines
and fees to be eligible for rights restoration.

In other words, Mr. Tucker was
disenfranchised in the 2018 midterm and
prior elections because of four dollars,
while thinking—due to misinformation—
that he had to pay the late fee as well.
With the assistance of the Alabama Voting Rights
Project, Mr. Tucker has paid his four dollars,
received his Certificate of Eligibility to Register
to Vote, and registered to vote.

9	

10

Alfonso Tucker, Alabama Took My Voting Rights Away for Owing 4 Dollars, C ampaign Legal C tr. (Apr. 5, 2019),
https://campaignlegal.org/story/alabama-took-my-voting-rights-away-owing-4-dollars.

For far too many
individuals, access to the
ballot depends on whether
they have the resources to
pay their fines and fees.

11

Poll taxes emerged to
prevent African Americans
from voting and also
disenfranchised poor whites,
Native Americans, and
other marginalized groups.

Part I:
History & Context
A. Poll Taxes
Poll taxes emerged during the Jim Crow Era to
prevent African Americans from voting.10
Although the goal was to create hurdles for
African American voters, poll taxes also
disenfranchised poor whites, Native Americans,
and other marginalized groups, concentrating
political power in the hands of a white, wealthy,
proper ty‑owning elite.11 Beginning with
Tennessee in 1870, several southern states
adopted laws or amended their constitutions to
require citizens to pay a tax to be eligible to vote.12
These provisions often included a “grandfather
clause” waiving the tax for men whose ancestors
had voted prior to the Civil War.13 Although
grandfather clauses exempted some poor whites
from the tax, they expressly excluded African

Americans, whose ancestors were slaves and
ineligible to vote before the passage of the
Fifteenth Amendment.14 While the poll tax was
most common in the South, it was also deployed
in other states, including California, Pennsylvania,
and Massachusetts.15
The U.S. Supreme Court first heard a challenge
to poll taxes in 1937.16 A white male citizen in
Georgia brought suit after he was not allowed to
register to vote for declining to pay the tax.17 In
Breedlove v. Suttles, the U.S. Supreme Court
upheld the payment of poll taxes as a prerequisite
of voting, finding that poll taxes did not “deny
any privilege or immunity protected by the
Fourteenth Amendment.”18 Rather, the Court
viewed poll taxes as “familiar and reasonable

10	 Kelly Phillips Erb, For Election Day, A History of the Poll Tax in America, Forbes (Nov. 5, 2018),
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/11/05/just-before-the-elections-a-history-of-the-poll-tax-in-america/.
11	 Id.; see also Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United S tates
(Basic Books rev. ed. 2009).
12	 David Schultz & Sarah Clark, Wealth v. Democracy: The Unfulfilled Promise of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, 29 Quinnipiac L.
Rev. 375, 388-89 (2011).
13	Keyssar, supra note 11, at 90.
14	 Id.
15	 C al. Const. art. XIII, § 12 (repealed 1946) (“The Legislature shall provide for the levy and collection of an annual poll tax of not
less than two dollars on every male inhabitant of this State, over twenty-one and under sixty years of age, except paupers, idiots,
insane persons, and Indians not taxed.”); George G. Sause, Jr., & George H. Sause, Jr., Municipal Poll Taxes in Pennsylvania, 8
Nat’l Tax J. 400 (Dec. 1955) (describing the use of municipal poll taxes in Pennsylvania); Charles T. Bullock, The Taxation of
Property and Income in Massachusetts, 31 Q. J. Econ. 1 (Nov. 1916) (describing the colonial roots of the poll tax in
Massachusetts).
16	 Breedlove v. Suttles, 302 U.S. 277 (1937).
17	 Id.
18	 Id. at 283.

13

Because “[w]ealth, like race,
creed, or color, is not germane
to one’s ability to participate
intelligently in the electoral
process,” the Court found
that poll taxes constitute
invidious discrimination
against individuals based on
socioeconomic status.

citizens to pay to vote in state elections until
1966. 23 In Harper v. Virginia State Board of
Elections, however, the U.S. Supreme Court held
that the use of poll taxes in state elections violated
the Fourteenth Amendment.24 Because “[w]ealth,
like race, creed, or color, is not germane to one’s
ability to participate intelligently in the electoral
process,” the Court found that poll taxes constitute
invidious discrimination against individuals based
on socioeconomic status.25 The Court explicitly
overruled Breedlove, holding that “once the
franchise [has been] granted to the electorate,
lines may not be drawn which are inconsistent
with the Equal Protection Clause.”26 Nonetheless,
many modern‑day barriers to voting, including
voter ID requirements27 and long lines on Election
Day,28 impose disparate burdens on voters’ right
to vote based on socioeconomic status.

B. Felony Disenfranchisement and
Voting Rights Restoration
regulation[s] long enforced in many states.”19
Georgia abolished its poll tax in 1945, 20 but
Breedlove remained good law until it was
overturned in 1966.21
Poll taxes were abolished nationwide in the 1960s,
during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Twenty‑Fourth Amendment, ratified in 1964,
prohibited the use of poll taxes in federal
elections. 22 Five states continued to require

Like poll taxes, felony disenfranchisement
predates the Civil War, but its post‑war history is
inextricably linked to slavery and enduring
discrimination against African Americans. Felony
disenfranchisement in the United States began
when Kentucky ratified its constitution in 1792.29
However, disenfranchisement laws in the United
States became widespread during the height of
the Jim Crow Era, alongside other legal barriers
to voting such as literacy tests (and, of course,

19	 Id.
20	 Patrick Notvotny, This Georgia Rising 150 (2007).
21	 See Harper v. Va. State Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 669 (1966).
22	 U.S. Const. amend. XXIV, § 1. The Amendment guarantees that the right to vote in federal elections “shall not be denied or
abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”
23	 Harper, 383 U.S. at 668.
24	 Id. at 666.
25	 Id. at 668.
26	 Id. at 665, 669.
27	 Sari Hortwitz, Getting a Photo ID So You Can Vote Is Easy. Unless You’re Poor, Black,
Latino, or Elderly., Wash. Post (Mar. 23, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/getting-a-photo-id-so-youcan-vote-is-easy-unless-youre-poor-black-latino-or-elderly/2016/05/23/8d5474ec-20f0-11e6-8690-f14ca9de2972_story.
html?utm_term=.70a81fc982c9.
28	 Danielle Root & Aadam Barclay, Voter Suppression During the 2018 Midterm
Elections, C tr. for Am. Progress (Nov. 20, 2018), https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/
reports/2018/11/20/461296/voter-suppression-2018-midterm-elections/.
29	 Ari Berman, Kentucky Restores Voting Rights for Thousands of Ex-Felons, The Nation (Nov. 24, 2015),
https://www.thenation.com/article/kentucky-restores-voting-rights-for-thousands-of-ex-felons/.

14

poll taxes).30 During this period, states in the deep
South adopted harsh penal codes, often referred
to as “Black Codes,” which specifically targeted
African Americans. 31 The purpose of the Black
Codes was twofold—first, to create a new source
of slave labor through the system of convict
leasing,32 and second, to disenfranchise African
Americans who had won the right to vote with
the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment.33
The Black Codes, in conjunction with Jim Crow
laws, were incredibly effective, barring a large
percentage of African Americans from voting.34
Though much of the focus on felony
disenfranchisement and its relation to race
centers on the deep South, states across the
country adopted felony disenfranchisement
statutes during this era.35
Although the Civil Rights Movement was
successful in eliminating many historical barriers
to voting for African Americans and other minority
groups, felony disenfranchisement escaped
unscathed. Unlike many other forms of
disenfranchisement, the landmark Voting Rights
Act of 1965 did not explicitly prohibit felony
disenfranchisement. 36 And in 1974, the U.S.
Supreme Court held in Richardson v. Ramirez that
the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment does not prohibit felony
disenfranchisement because a later clause in the
same Amendment references the possibility of
disenfranchisement for participation in “rebellion
or other crime.”37 And as of yet, no court has
struck down a felony disenfranchisement scheme
on the basis of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,

Although the Civil
Rights Movement
was successful in
eliminating many
historical barriers
to voting for African
Americans and
other minority
groups, felony
disenfranchisement
escaped unscathed.

30	 Andrew L. Shapiro, Challenging Criminal Disenfranchisement Under the Voting Rights Act: A New Strategy, 103 Yale L.J. 537, 537
(1993).
31	 In the aftermath of the Civil War, the South used the Black Codes as a means to incarcerate African Americans in large numbers. As
prisoners, African Americans were then “leased” by the state during their sentence to southern companies for forced labor. In this
manner, the South was able—in part—to replicate the systems of de jure slavery that preceded the Civil War. See generally
Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name (2008).
32	 Id.
33	 See Shapiro, supra note 30.
34	 See Shapiro, supra note 30, at 538.
35	 See Historical Timeline: US History of Felony Voting/Disenfranchisement, ProCon.org (June 25, 2013),
https://felonvoting.procon.org/view.timeline.php?timelineID=000016 (last visited June 5, 2019).
36	 See, e.g., Hayden v Pataki, 449 F.3d 305 (2d Cir. 2006), Farrakhan v. Gregoire, 623 F.3d 990 (9th Cir. 2010).
37	 418 U.S. 24 (1974).

15

As of 2016,

1 in 13

African Americans
have had their right to vote
revoked compared to only

1 in 56

non‑African Americans.

which typically bars voting practices that produce
discriminatory results in access to voting.38
Today, due to a massive increase in incarceration,
criminal convictions disenfranchise millions of
Americans. The Sentencing Project estimates
that, as of 2016, 6.1 million Americans were
prohibited from voting due to felony convictions.39
And because the policies and practices that have
given rise to mass incarceration disproportionately
criminalize black and brown people, criminal

convictions disproportionately disenfranchise
citizens of color. For example, as of 2016, 1 in 13
African Americans have had their right to vote
revoked compared to only 1 in 56 non‑African
Americans.40 And, as states and local jurisdictions
increasingly adopt policies that monetize their
criminal justice systems, rights restoration for
many of these individuals depends on their ability
to pay off any legal financial obligations arising
out of their convictions.

38	 See, e.g., Johnson v. Governor, 405 F.3d 1214, 1234 (11th Cir. 2005) (holding that Section 2 does not apply to felony
disenfranchisement schemes).
39	 The Sentencing Project, Felony Disenfranchisement, https://www.sentencingproject.org/issues/felony-disenfranchisement/.
40	 Id.

16

As of the most recent
study in 2016, 6.1 million
Americans were prohibited
from voting due to felony
convictions.
17

Today, an estimated
10 million people owe
more than $50 billion in
fines and fees related to
criminal convictions.

Part II:
Felony Disenfranchisement
Meets The Poll Tax
At present, forty‑eight states and the District of
Columbia have laws limiting the voting rights of
individuals convicted of felonies.41 While many
states provide a path for the restoration of voting
rights post‑conviction, those paths are often
blocked by considerable court‑imposed debt.
Today, an estimated 10 million people owe more
than $50 billion in fines and fees related to
criminal convictions.42
These court‑imposed debts fall disproportionately
on minority and poor communities who are often
less able to pay them.43

A. Court Fines and Fees Are Steep and
Far‑Reaching
Many states make criminal defendants pay—quite
literally—for their prosecution.44 Economic
sanctions can include not only restorative
payments to victims and punitive fines as elements
of sentencing,45 but also fees to raise revenues
for the administration of the criminal justice
system or unrelated municipal services.46 In one
notorious example, a U.S. Department of Justice
investigation of the Ferguson Police Department
in Missouri revealed that the town had set revenue
targets for criminal justice fines and fees of over
$3 million in 2015.47 The generated revenue was
expected to cover over twenty percent of the
town’s operating budget.48 Not all jurisdictions
experience a net gain from criminal justice fines
and fees, however, as the cost of collections can

41	 Two states—Maine and Vermont—do not disenfranchise felons. See Jean Chung, Felony Disenfranchisement: A Primer, The
Sentencing Project (July 17, 2018), https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/felony-disenfranchisement-a-primer/.
42	 Douglas N. Evans, The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender
Reintegration, John Jay C. of Crim. Just. 7 (2014), https://jjrec.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/debtpenalty.pdf.
43	 Id.; Rachel L. McLean & Michael D. Thompson, Repaying Debts, Council of State Gov’ts, Just. C tr. (2007), http://csgjusticecenter.
org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/repaying_debts_full_report-2.pdf (“In one study, three-fourths of people released from prison
owing child support, restitution, and supervision fees reported having difficulty paying off these debts.”).
44	 Erika L. Wood & Neema Trivedi, The Modern-Day Poll Tax: How Economic Sanctions Block Access to the Polls, 41
Clearinghouse Rev. 30, 35-36 (2007).
45	 Id.
46	 Patrick Liu, Ryan Nunn, & Jay Shambaugh, Nine Facts About Monetary Sanctions in the
Criminal Justice System, Brookings Inst. (Mar. 15, 2019), https://www.brookings.edu/research/nine-facts-about-monetarysanctions-in-the-criminal-justice-system/ (describing reliance by state and local jurisdictions on revenue from court fines and fees
to cover rising law enforcement and criminal justice expenses); McLean & Thompson, supra note 43 (“Criminal justice agencies are
increasingly fee driven; administrative assessments on citations fund nearly all of the Administrative Office of the Court’s budget in
Nevada.”).
47	 U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Civil Rights Div., Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department 10 (2015), https://www.justice.gov/sites/
default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/ferguson_police_department_report.pdf.
48	 Id.

19

outstrip the revenue gained.49 For example, Los
Angeles County spent $3.9 million on collections
to bring in only $3.4 million in probation fees in
its most recent fiscal year.50
The legal financial obligations (“LFOs”) imposed
on individuals as a result of a criminal conviction
fall largely into three categories: restitution, fines,
and fees.51 Paying these debts in full is often a
prerequisite to fully completing a sentence and
regaining eligibility for rights restoration. This can
be difficult, if not impossible, for impoverished
returning citizens, especially when faced with
several competing financial obligations and

Type of Legal
Financial Obligation

debts.52 Indeed, most returning citizens grapple
with at least one, but often many, such obligations.53
These LFOs can quickly add up to substantial
sums, particularly in jurisdictions that assess late
payment fees or charge interest. In one study, the
average family of a returning citizen owed
approximately $13,600 in fines and fees alone.54
Many individuals face even higher costs. In one
case, a woman owed $33,000 in LFOs related to
her conviction; after making monthly payments
for thirteen years, she owed $72,000 due to the
interest accrued on her initial balance.55 In such
cases, fees, fines, and restitution may take more
than a lifetime to pay off. In states that condition

Definition

Example

Restitution

court‑ordered sums assessed at
sentencing that compensate crime
victims for their loss

reimbursing the victim of a
burglary for the price of the
stolen item

Fines

penalties that serve as punishment
for specific offenses or levels of
offenses; can be mandatory or
discretionary

$1000 discretionary drug
conviction fine (first offense)

Fees

amounts charged to criminal
defendants for the costs to agencies
involved in the administration of the
criminal justice system

probation supervision fees,
court costs, attorney
appointment fees, costs of
incarceration

49	 Anne Stuhldreher, Counties Rarely Collect Fees Imposed on Those Formerly Jailed. So Why Keep Charging Them?, L.A. Times
(May 16, 2019), https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-stuhldreher-fees-criminal-justice-reform-20190516-story.html.
50	 Id.
51	 For additional information on different types of LFOs, see McLean & Thompson, supra note 43; see also Monica Llorente,
Criminalizing Poverty Through Fines, Fees, and Costs, Am. Bar A ss’n (Oct. 3, 2016), https://www.americanbar.org/groups/
litigation/committees/childrens-rights/articles/2016/criminalizing-poverty-fines-fees-costs/.
52	 See McLean & Thompson, supra note 43, at 2.
53	 Id. at 7.
54	 Saneta deVuono-Powell et al., Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families, Ella Baker C tr. 9 (2015), http://
ellabakercenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/who-pays.pdf.
55	 Alana Semuels, The Fines and Fees That Keep Former Prisoners Poor, Atlantic (July 5, 2016), https://www.theatlantic.com/
business/archive/2016/07/the-cost-of-monetary-sanctions-for-prisoners/489026/.

20

Explicit LFO Requirement
Permanent Disenfranchisement &
LFO Requirement for Clemency
Implicit LFO Requirement
No LFO Requirement
No Felony Disenfranchisement

eligibility for rights restoration on a complete
payment of all LFOs, these debts exclude many
from the voting booth for life.56

B. 30 States Hinge Voting Rights
Restoration on Ability to Pay LFOs.
An analysis of all 50 states and the District of
Columbia’s rights restoration schemes reveals that
there are 30 jurisdictions where returning citizens
may be required to pay LFOs to regain the right
to vote. These jurisdictions’ schemes fall into two
broad categories: (1) schemes that explicitly
require full payment of LFOs as part of the voting
rights restoration statutes; and (2) schemes that
implicitly require payment of LFOs for voting rights
restoration because they condition completion of
parole or probation on payment of LFOs.
This system simply does not accord with the
Twenty‑Fourth Amendment’s guarantee that “the
right of citizens of the United States to vote not
be denied or abridged by the United States or
any State by reason of failure to pay a poll tax or

other tax.” Nor does it accord with the U.S.
Supreme Court’s 1966 ruling in Harper v. Virginia
State Board of Elections that wealth is never
germane to voting qualifications.57

1. Eight states across the country

have explicitly included some form
of this modern poll tax in their
election laws.

In Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, and
Tennessee, citizens must fully pay LFOs to restore
their right to vote under applicable restoration
statutes.58 In Georgia, the Attorney General has
required the payment of certain, but not all, fines
as a condition of rights restoration. 59 In
Connecticut, this requirement applies only to
those with federal or out‑of‑state convictions.60
In Washington, the right to vote is provisionally
restored upon completion of probation and parole
but can be revoked for failure to pay LFOs.61
The issue of modern‑day poll taxes have taken
center stage in 2019 because of recent events in

56	 Id.
57	 383 U.S. 663, 669 (1966).
58	 See Appendix, Table 4.
59	 Ga. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 84-33, 1984 WL 59904 (May 24, 1984).
60	 Conn. Gen. S tat. § 9-46a.
61	 Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.08.520.

21

Florida. In 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly
passed a constitutional amendment to
automatically restore the right to vote to
individuals with felony convictions upon
completion of “all terms of sentence including
parole or probation.”62 The passage of
Amendment 4 was a landmark event. Prior to
2018, Florida disenfranchised more citizens than
any other state for felony convictions.63 Thus,
Amendment 4 was forecast to enfranchise over
a million Floridians.64

In states that condition
eligibility for rights
restoration on a
complete payment of
all LFOs, these debts
exclude many from the
voting booth for life.

In 2019, however, the Florida Legislature passed
S.B. 7066 to “implement” the Amendment. The
law defined “all terms of sentence” to include all
court fines, fees, and restitution ordered at
sentencing or as a condition of parole, probation,
or supervision.65 These LFOs include a variety of
fines and fees assessed to generate revenue for
various judicial and law enforcement expenses,66
but also debts for medical care incurred during
incarceration and fees and legal costs imposed
specifically on indigent defendants who are
represented by public defenders.67
These requirements are onerous. An internal
analysis by the Florida Department of Corrections
of 22,012 individuals on probation, parole, or
community supervision found that they owed an
average of $8,195 in restitution alone.68 This figure
does not include fines and fees. Yet, this returning
population is ill‑equipped to pay these debts.
Reentering citizens in Florida have an estimated
monthly income of $1,559.69 S.B. 7066’s restrictions
will therefore preclude rights restoration for

62	 Fla . Const. art. VI, § 4(a). The newly adopted provision excludes individuals with convictions for murder or felony sexual offenses.
Id. Individuals with disqualifying convictions can apply for discretionary rights restoration through the Florida Office of Executive
Clemency. That application process specifically considers payment of LFOs. See Fla. Office of Exec. Clemency, Rules of Executive
Clemency (Mar. 9, 2011), https://www.fcor.state.fl.us/docs/clemency/clemency_rules.pdf.
63	 Christopher Uggen et al., 6 Million Lost Voters: State-Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement, 2016, The Sentencing
Project (Oct. 6, 2016), https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/6-million-lost-voters-state-level-estimates-felonydisenfranchisement-2016/.
64	 Id.
65	 S.B. 7066, 2019 Leg., Reg. Sess. (Fla. 2019) (see Section 25, enacted in Fla. Stat. § 98.0751(2) (effective July 1, 2019)).
66	 See generally Fla . S tat, ch. 938.
67	 See, e.g., Fla . S tat. § 948.03.
68	 Rebekah Diller, The Hidden Costs of Florida’s Criminal Justice Fees, Brennan C tr. for Just. (2010), http://www.brennancenter.
org/sites/default/files/legacy/Justice/FloridaF&F.pdf.
69	 Id.

22

hundreds of thousands of Floridians solely on the
basis of wealth.70
Unfortunately, Florida’s Legislature is following a
model established in other states. In Arkansas,
for example, individuals can restore their voting
rights once they have been discharged from
probation or parole, all probation or parole fees
have been paid, all terms of imprisonment have
been satisfied, and all applicable court fees, fines,
or restitution have been paid.71 Moreover, persons
convicted of a felony must provide the voter
registrar with proof that they have paid in full all
fines and fees associated with their conviction
before they can register to vote post‑conviction.72
Likewise, Alabama requires citizens to pay all
fines, fees, and restitution ordered at sentencing
before they can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility
to Register to Vote.73 Arizona requires payment
of restitution to be eligible for automatic voting
rights restoration.74
Tennessee not only requires full payment of
conviction‑related fines and fees, but also requires
full payment of child support obligations before

Reentering citizens in
Florida have an estimated
monthly income of $1,559.
S.B. 7066’s restrictions will
preclude rights restoration
for hundreds of thousands
of Floridians solely on the
basis of wealth.

voting rights restoration.75 Meanwhile, in Georgia,
certain fines must be paid under the voting rights
restoration statute, even though the state
constitution specifies that voting rights are
restored upon “completion of [the] sentence.”76
In 1984, the Georgia Attorney General issued an
advisory opinion stating that fines imposed as a
condition of probation do not necessarily need

70	 Indeed, with these restrictions, estimates of newly re-enfranchised individuals in Florida under Amendment 4 drop significantly.
Marc Mauer & Howard Simon, The Number of People Who Could Be Directly Impacted by Amendment 4 (Feb. 11, 2018), https://
docs.google.com/document/d/1om20yURi8GKBdtYUuur-R-RyAagoY1SvmWDWRYghVss/edit#heading=h.gjdgxs (last visited May
30, 2019) (Memo to Executive Board, Second Chances Team). Although initially estimating that approximately 1.4 million Floridians
would be eligible for re-enfranchisement under Amendment 4, that number drops significantly when eligibility is conditioned on
LFOs. Based on a 2007 survey by the Florida Department of Corrections, which showed that forty percent of individuals awaiting
rights restoration (then only available by application through executive clemency) had outstanding restitution, Mauer and Simon
estimated in a memo that requiring payment of restitution alone would decrease the number of citizens eligible for rights
restoration to 840,000. That number does not include individuals who do not have outstanding restitution, but do have
outstanding court fees and fines, and are also ineligible for rights restoration under SB 7066. As such, the decrease in individuals
eligible for rights restoration is likely steeper than anticipated by Mauer and Simon.
71	 Ark. Const. amend. 51, § 11(a)(4), (d)(2)(A)-(B).
72	 Id. § 11(d)(2)(A).
73	 Ala . Code § 15-22-36.1 (requiring payment of all LFOs imposed at the time of sentencing for the disqualifying crime). Importantly,
this statute does not require payment of post-sentencing fines and fees such as late penalties or probation fees. Id. Alabama
citizens have challenged this requirement in an ongoing federal lawsuit. Thompson v. Merrill, No. 2:16-cv-783-WKW (M.D. Ala.).
74	 See Ariz. Rev. S tat. § 13-912. A federal court upheld this requirement when previously challenged. Harvey v. Brewer, 605 F.3d
1067 (9th Cir. 2010). In the 2019 legislative session, Arizona revised its felony disenfranchisement scheme to only require payment
of restitution—not fines—for automatic rights restoration. See H.B. 2080, 54 Leg., 1st Reg. Sess. (Ariz. 2019),  https://apps.azleg.
gov/BillStatus/GetDocumentPdf/470934.
75	 Tenn. Code § 40-29-202(c). The Sixth Circuit upheld Tennessee’s child support requirements against a Twenty-Fourth
Amendment challenge. Johnson v. Bredesen, 624 F.3d 742, 750-51 (6th Cir. 2010).
76	 Ga . Code § 21-2-216(b). There are two additional states—Kansas and Texas—that may have statutory LFOs requirements
depending on their interpretation of their respective rights restoration statutes. In Kansas, the relevant statute requires
“complet[ion of] the terms of the authorized sentence.” K an. S tat. § 21-6613. There is no publicly available authority on whether
this includes LFOs. However, according to Professor Colgan, an election official has reported including payments of fines and fees
in this requirement. Beth Colgan, Wealth-Based Penal Disenfranchisement, 72 Vanderbilt L. Rev. 55, 67 n. 44 (2019). Likewise, in
Texas, the relevant statute suspends the right to vote until full discharge of “the person’s sentence, including any term of
incarceration, parole, or supervision, or complet[ion of] a period of probation ordered by any court.” Tex . Elec. Code §11.002.
This statute only specifically discusses the inclusion of supervision in the discharge of sentence. However, a separate provision
states that “[w]hen the sentence against an individual defendant is for fine and costs, he shall be discharged from the same: when
the amount thereof has been fully paid” unless it is remitted or otherwise discharged. Tex . Crim. Pro. § 43.01(a). We have not
identified any guidance indicating whether this definition therefore requires discharge of fines and fees prior to voting rights
restoration.

23

to be paid before voting rights are restored.77
But, fines imposed as part of a sentence, pursuant
to a statute authorizing the imposition of the
fine, must be paid before the state will restore
an individual’s voting rights.78 A fine of this
kind is considered “a separate sentence in
addition to a sentence of incarceration or a
sentence of probation.”79
In Washington, the right to vote is provisionally
restored for those not under the authority of the
state department of corrections, which includes
not just incarceration but also parole.80 This means
that, for individuals convicted in a federal court
or the court of another state, the right to vote is
restored once the person is no longer
incarcerated.81 For individuals convicted in
Washington State court, however, the sentencing
court may revoke the provisional restoration of
voting rights if it determines that the individual
has willfully failed to comply with the terms of an
order to pay LFOs.82 A prosecutor is required to
seek revocation of voting rights for failure to make
three payments in one year if the county clerk or
restitution recipient requests revocation.83 Upon

revocation, individuals must demonstrate a
good‑faith effort to pay their LFOs to restore their
voting rights.84
Finally, in Connecticut, individuals with in‑state
felony convictions have their voting rights
restored upon completion of their prison sentence
and any term of parole. Individuals with federal
or out‑of‑state convictions are required by statute
to pay all fines related to their disqualifying
conviction to have their rights restored.85

2. Two states have permanent
disenfranchisement and
require payment of LFOs
for clemency eligibility.
In Iowa and Kentucky, the only way to regain the
right to vote after a conviction is through executive
clemency, which in each state hinges on full
payment of fines, fees, and/or restitution.
Individuals with felony convictions in Iowa who
wish to vote must apply for a pardon to the Office
of the Governor or the President of the United

77	 Ga. Att’y Gen., Voting Rights Restoration, Advisory Opinion (No. 84-33), 1984 WL 59904, at *1 (May 24, 1984)
78	 Id. at *2. Notwithstanding the Attorney General opinion, election officials continue to provide Georgians with conflicting
information about what must be paid to be eligible to vote—and many county officials routinely inform people with convictions
that they must pay all fines, fees, and restitution to register to vote. See, e.g., Dep’t of the Columbus, Ga. Consol. Gov’t, Elections
& Registration, https://www.columbusga.gov/elections/electFAQ.htm (last visited June 5, 2019) (“Can a felon vote? Yes, once all
aspects of your felony sentence is completed to include probation, restitution, or fine.”); Wilkinson Cty. Bd. of Elections &
Registrations, Voter Registration, http://www.wilkinsoncounty.net/departments.php?Departments-Board-of-Elections-14 (last
visited June 5, 2019) (“You may NOT register if you: . . . Have been convicted of a felony and you are currently serving your
sentence, this includes any fines and probation.”). Despite multiple requests from advocacy groups, Georgia’s Secretary of State
has failed to address the impact of outstanding fees or restitution on a person’s right to vote in Georgia. See Campaign Legal
Center & Southern Center for Human Rights, Letter to Georgia Secretary of State (Feb. 26, 2019), https://campaignlegal.org/
document/georgia-felony-disenfranchisement-and-legal-financial-obligations-nvra-notice-letter. The state’s contradictory
guidance on rights restoration has left Georgians incapable of discerning the requirements for voting rights restoration—further
exacerbating the disenfranchising effect of LFOs.
79	 Id.
80	 Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.08.520(1).
81	 Id.
82	 Id. § 29A.08.520(2)(a).
83	 Id. § 29A.08.520(2)(b).
84	 Id. § 29A.08.520(3).
85	 Conn. Gen. S tat. § 9-46a. In early 2019, the Connecticut House of Representatives introduced and passed a bill that would have
removed the financial restrictions and re-enfranchised all citizens post-incarceration, regardless of whether their conviction was
in-state, out-of-state, or federal. However, the Senate did not vote on it before the end of the January session. See H.B. 7160, 2019
Gen. Assemb., Jan. Sess. (Conn. 2019), https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/TOB/h/pdf/2019HB-07213-R00-HB.pdf. See also Substitute
H.B. No. 7160, 2019 Gen. Assemb., Jan. Sess. (Conn. 2019), https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/FC/pdf/2019HB-07160-R001015-FC.PDF.

24

States.86 The Governor of Iowa has created a
streamlined application process for the restoration
of voting rights.87 The current application asks
whether an applicant has completed payment of
fines, fees, and restitution.88 If the applicant has
not yet completed payment, the application asks
whether the applicant is on a payment plan.89 The
Governor of Iowa has instructed that individuals
can only apply for voting rights restoration if they
have either paid their LFOs or are currently on a
payment plan for their LFOs.90
Likewise, in Kentucky, citizens with felony
convictions are permanently disenfranchised
unless they obtain a pardon from the Governor.91
And, to apply for a pardon, they must not owe
any restitution.92 Outstanding fines or fees are
also considered.93

3. Twenty states implicitly require
payment of fines and fees as a
prerequisite for voting rights
restoration by requiring completion
of parole and/or probation.
Twenty states—Alaska, California, Delaware,
Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi,
Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico,
North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota,
Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and
Wyoming—have built implicit poll taxes into their
provisions for voting rights restoration.94 These
states do not explicitly require that individuals

pay fines and fees to restore their right to vote.
Instead, they require completion of parole and/
or probation before a person with a past
conviction can restore their right to vote.
The American criminal justice system, however,
almost uniformly intertwines payment of legal
debt, parole, and probation. Every state that ties
the right to vote to completion of parole and/or
probation also allows payment of legal debt to
be a condition of parole and/or probation. The
discharge of parole and/or probation can be
reduced or prolonged depending upon
compliance with conditions of supervision. Thus,
access to the right to vote in these states can be
delayed because of an inability to pay off legal
debts, even though restoration is not expressly
conditioned on payment of LFOs.
Conditioning voting rights restoration on
completion of parole and/or probation inevitably
creates the potential for wealth‑based
disenfranchisement. For example, in Missouri,
individuals may not vote unless they have
completed parole and probation.95 Missouri also
requires individuals to pay any restitution imposed
as a result of their conviction before they are
released from supervision.96 If restitution is not
paid within the original term of the probation, the
court will impose the maximum term for probation
allowed for that offense.97 Similarly, a person will
not be released from parole until restitution is
paid, or until the maximum term for parole under

86	 Iowa Const. art. II, § 5; Iowa Code § 48A.6(1).
87	 Voting Rights Restoration, Iowa Office of the Governor, https://governor.iowa.gov/services/voting-rights-restoration (last
visited May 31, 2019).
88	 Application for Restoration of Voting Rights, Iowa Office of the Governor, https://governor.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/
Application%20for%20Restoration%20of%20Voting%20Rights.pdf (last visited May 15, 2019).
89	 Id.
90	 Voting Rights Restoration, supra note 87.
91	 K y. Const., § 145; K y. Rev. S tat. § 196.045.
92	 Application for Restoration of Civil Rights, Dep ’ t of Corr., Div. of Prob. & Parole (Nov. 2015), https://corrections.ky.gov/
Probation-and-Parole/Documents/Civil%20Rights%20Application%20Rev%2011-25-2015.pdf.
93	 Id.
94	 See Appendix, Table 4.
95	 Mo. Rev. S tat. § 217.690.
96	 Id.
97	 Id.

25

that offense is served.98 This wealth‑based
prolongment of supervision is not limited to
restitution. Completion of probation and parole
may also be conditioned on the payment of
supervision fees of up to sixty dollars per month.99
Furthermore, failure to meet any probation
condition can prevent or delay discharge.100 Thus,
individuals who are unable to pay their monthly
supervision fees can have their term of supervision
extended, delaying their rights restoration.

eligible to be released from probation or parole.
These states place conditions of payment on
probation or parole, requiring payment of LFOs
for early release from supervision, and/or creating
the risk of extended probation or parole while
LFOs are outstanding.101 All of these schemes
create a possibility that an inability to pay LFOs
will prolong disenfranchisement.
In Virginia, a similar scheme has been created by
executive action. The Virginia Constitution
disenfranchises all citizens with felony
convictions,102 unless the Governor (or other
appropriate authority) restores their voting rights.
Several recent governors have made efforts to
re‑enfranchise large numbers of returning
citizens.103 Under current practice, returning

Alaska, California, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas,
Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico,
North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota,
Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming all
have similar frameworks, requiring that individuals
complete payment of LFOs before they are

98	 Id.
99	 Id.
100	Id. § 559.036(3).
101	 See Appendix, Table 4.
102	 Va . Const. art. 2, § 1; id. art. 5, § 12; Va . Code Ann. § 19.2-356.
103	 Errin Whack, McDonnell to Expedite Rights Restoration Process for Non-Violent Felons in Virginia, Wash. Post (May 29, 2013),
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/va-politics/mcdonnell-to-expedite-rights-restoration-process-for-non-violent-felons-invirginia/2013/05/29/ae34cbe0-c873-11e2-8da7-d274bc611a47_story.html; Laura Vozzella, Va. Gov. McAuliffe Says He Has Broken

20 STATES
26

have built implicit equivalents
of poll taxes into their provisions
for voting rights restoration.

citizens are eligible for rights restoration so long
as they are no longer under supervision.104 While
this executive action has enfranchised hundreds
of thousands of Virginians, inability to pay legal
debt can still extend supervision in Virginia and
therefore prolong disenfranchisement.
Louisiana presents a special case. Louisiana
passed a new law, effective on March 1, 2019,
restoring voting rights to some returning citizens.105
Previously, those with felony convictions could
only regain their right to vote when their sentences,
including completion of parole and probation,
were complete.106 To be discharged from parole
and probation, one would have to complete
payment of any outstanding fines, fees, or
restitution.107 Under the new law, persons who
have not been incarcerated for the last five years
may register to vote, regardless of whether they
are still on probation or parole (unless they have
committed election offenses or fraud).108 Payment
of LFOs should not be a permanent barrier to
voting for anyone; thus the Louisiana law has
greatly improved as a result of this new bill. But,
during the five years immediately following
incarceration, failure to pay legal debts can still
prolong supervision.109

Thus, Louisiana continues to function
as a “can’t pay, can’t vote” state for
some citizens for at least five years
post‑sentence.
Finally, Mississippi permanently disenfranchises
people with convictions absent legislative or

In many states, individuals
who are unable to pay their
monthly supervision fees
or other LFOs can have
their term of supervision
extended, delaying their
rights restoration.

executive clemency, but its pardon process
appears to implicitly require payment of LFOs.
Only those convicted of certain crimes (including
perjury, bigamy, receiving stolen property,
robbery, theft, felony bad check, felony
shoplifting, forgery, and statutory rape) are
permanently disenfranchised.110 These individuals
are only eligible to vote if each chamber of the
state legislature votes by a two‑thirds majority to
restore their rights, or by application to the

U.S. Record for Restoring Voting Rights, Wash. Post (Apr. 27, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/
va-gov-mcauliffe-says-he-has-broken-us-record-for-restoring-voting-rights/2017/04/27/55b5591a-2b8b-11e7-be51-b3fc6ff7faee_
story.html.
104	 See Restoration of Rights, Sec’ y of the Commonwealth of Va ., https://www.restore.virginia.gov/.
105	 L a . S tat. Ann. § 18:177.
106	 See Id. § 15:574.4.2, 574.7; see also Melinda Deslatte, Voting Rights Bill for Some Louisiana Felons Wins Passage, U.S. News &
World Rep. (May 17, 2018), https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/louisiana/articles/2018-05-17/voting-rights-bill-forlouisiana-ex-felons-wins-passage.
107	 Id.
108	 L a . S tat. Ann. § 18:177.
109	 See Whack, supra note 103.
110	 Miss. Const. art. 12, § 241; see also Miss. Att’y Gen. Op. 2009-00077, 2009 WL 927963.

27

Governor.111 Under either method, rights
restoration is infrequent and irregular. Under
informal Mississippi policy, eligibility for
restoration of voting rights begins seven years
after completion of sentence.112 According to a
recent analysis of legislative voting rights
restoration in the past decade, every person
whose right to vote was restored had completed
their sentence, including parole and/or
probation.113 To complete the sentence,
Mississippi law lists payment of a fine as a
condition of probation and parole.114 The failure
to successfully fulfill the terms and conditions of
post‑release supervision, including payment of a
fine as a condition of probation and parole, can
extend parole or probation.115

3. Twenty states and the District
of Columbia do not condition the
right to vote upon payment of
fines and fees.
Not all states with felony disenfranchisement
provisions condition restoration of returning

citizens’ rights on their ability to pay their fines
and fees. First and foremost, two states impose
no restrictions on the right to vote on the basis
of criminal convictions: Maine and Vermont.116 In
sixteen states—Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana,
Maryland, Massachusetts,117 Michigan, Montana,
New Hampshire, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and
Utah—and the District of Columbia, voting rights
are restored automatically by statute after release
from incarceration.118 Colorado and Nevada are
among recent additions; both states revised their
statutes to re‑enfranchise individuals upon
release from incarceration in 2019.119 These laws
went into effect on July 1, 2019.120
In New York, access to the right to vote regardless
of fines and fees is a function of executive action
by the Governor (and thus could be reversed by
a different Governor).121 In early 2018, New York’s
Governor signed an executive order stating that
all people released into parole supervision are
eligible to have their voting rights restored.122 As
a result, New York is currently categorized as a

111	 Miss. Const. art. 12, § 253.
112	 Restoration of Rights Project, Mississippi Restoration of Rights, Pardon, Expungement & Sealing, Collateral Consequences
Res. C tr., http://ccresourcecenter.org/state-restoration-profiles/mississippi-restoration-of-rights-pardon-expungement-sealing/
(last visited April 8, 2019).
113	 Beth Colgan, Wealth-Based Penal Disenfranchisement, 72 Vand. L. Rev. 55, 78 (2019).
114	 Miss. Code Ann. § 47-7-35(1)(h).
115	 Id. §§ 47-7-37(1), 47-7-38(5)(e).
116	 Me. Const. art. II, §1; V t. Const. ch. II, §42
117	 Massachusetts disenfranchises persons with convictions for “corrupt practices in respect to elections” until they have their civil
rights individually restored. Mass. Const. amend. art. III, XL. We have categorized Massachusetts according to its treatment of
the vast majority of people with convictions, this exception notwithstanding.
118	 See Appendix, Table 4.
119	 H.B. 19-1266, 2019 Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Colo. 2019), https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2019A/
bills/2019a_1266_enr.pdf; A B. 431, 80th Sess. (Nev. 2019), https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6819/Text.
120	 H.B. 19-1266 (Colo. 2019); A.B. 431 (Nev. 2019).
121	 The use of executive authority to restore voting rights has often led to inconsistent application by different administrations. In both
Iowa and Kentucky, rights restoration has waxed and waned depending entirely on the political temperament of the person in
office. See, e.g., Ky. Exec. Order No. 2015-052, Relating to Restoration of Civil Rights for Convicted Felons (2015), http://apps.sos.
ky.gov/Executive/Journal/execjournalimages/2016-MISC-2015-0052-243103.pdf; Iowa Exec. Order No. 70 (2011), http://
publications.iowa.gov/10194/1/BranstadEO70.pdf (rescinding Executive Order No. 42).
122	 N.Y. Exec. Order No. 181, Restoring the Right to Vote for New Yorkers on Parole (2018), https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/
governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/Executive_Order_181.pdf.

28

state where individuals are eligible for rights
restoration at the completion of their term
of incarceration.
In Oklahoma, rights restoration is based on the
length of an individual’s sentence. A person
convicted of a felony is only disenfranchised for
a period of time equal to the term a person is
sentenced to serve.123 Thus, if a person is
sentenced for a term of four years, voting rights
will be restored after the expiration of four years
regardless of any fines or fees owed.

4. Certain states allow returning
citizens to apply for waivers
of LFOs.
Certain states that require full payment of LFOs
as a condition of voting rights restoration—either
explicitly or implicitly—allow returning individuals
to apply for waivers of LFOs if they are unable to
pay them. These waiver processes can allow
people to bypass onerous LFOs that they
otherwise cannot meet. In this sense, waivers have
the potential to mitigate the disenfranchising
effect of LFOs.
As currently implemented, however, many, if not
most, state waiver processes have significant
flaws, and are not effective remedies for those
who cannot afford to pay. States commonly
require people to seek such waivers from state
or county courts, and grant those courts
substantial discretion, including whether to grant
a waiver in full or in part. The rules for seeking
waivers for LFOs vary widely both across and
within states, and the varied, complex application
processes can—and usually do—serve as yet
another hurdle on the path to rights restoration.
Returning citizens are often not informed that
waiver processes exist, let alone how to navigate

In 2019, Colorado
and Nevada
revised their laws
to re‑enfranchise
individuals upon
release from
incarceration.

the obscure and complicated steps involved. In
some states, applying for a waiver may even
require formal legal representation. The bottom
line is this: simply having a process for granting
waivers of fines, fees, and restitution mitigates
the wealth‑based barriers to the ballot box but
does not remove them.
The following examples of state laws on waivers
illustrate this point.
In Alaska, a defendant sentenced to pay a fine or
restitution may request a hearing regarding the
defendant’s ability to pay.124 If defendants can
show by a preponderance of evidence that they
would not be able to pay off the fines and
restitutions, courts must modify the order so that
they can pay through good faith efforts.125 In
these instances, the court may “reduce the fine
ordered, change the payment schedule, or

123	 Okla . S tat. tit. 22, § 4-101 (2017).
124	 Alaska S tat. § 12.55.051(c).
125	 Id.

29

and parole may exempt a person if the offender
1) “has diligently attempted but been unable to
obtain employment”; or 2) “has a disability
affecting employment, as determined by a
physical, psychological or psychiatric examination
acceptable to the division of probation and
parole.”128 However, this waiver provision does
not apply to the payment of any other costs and
fees.129 In other words, an individual in Idaho
would still need to pay any non‑supervision‑related
costs or fees associated with his sentence or risk
prolonged disenfranchisement.

The rules for seeking waivers
for LFOs vary widely both
across and within states,
and the complex application
processes can—and usually
do—serve as yet another
hurdle on the path to
rights restoration.

The process for obtaining a waiver can be
complex and can even require legal representation
to navigate. In Tennessee, for instance, individuals
can request a waiver of certain LFOs,130 but the
process for doing so is onerous. In Davidson
County, where Nashville is located, the criminal
court has an “Application and Financial Affidavit
for Payment Plan or Indigency Docket,”
colloquially referred to as a “cost waiver.” The
application must be filed with the court; it
requests three pages of detailed information
about the applicant’s expenses, income, assets,
and liabilities.

otherwise modify the order.”126 The court may
change the payment schedule for restitution, but
it cannot reduce the amount.127

The court does not publicize the
availability of cost waivers, nor does it
provide substantive guidance for filling
out the application and affidavit and filing.

In Idaho, individuals on parole or probation must
pay supervision fees, but the division of probation

And the process for reviewing, granting, or
denying cost waivers remains fairly opaque.131

126	 Id.
127	 Id.
128	 Idaho Code § 20-225.
129	 Id.
130	 Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-25-123(b). Litigation taxes are a distinct category of LFOs in Tennessee, where a fee “is imposed for the
purpose of regulating a specific activity or defraying the cost of providing a service or benefit to the party paying the fee,” while a
tax “is a revenue raising measure levied for the purpose of paying the government’s general debts and liabilities.” City of
Tullahoma v. Bedford Cty., 938 S.W.2d 408, 412 (Tenn. 1997). For instance, Tennessee imposes a tax of $29.50 on all criminal
charges upon conviction or by order. Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-602(a); see also id. § 67-4-606 (delineating the apportionment of
the revenue from litigation taxes).
131	 Due to the lack of public information about this process, this report relies on the experience of individuals who have tried to
navigate this process, and on conversations with those familiar with it, including public defenders and advocates working in the
Davidson Court system.

30

Other counties in Tennessee do not even have a
form for cost waivers or a centralized docket for
processing them. In those counties, disenfranchised
individuals who want to demonstrate their inability
to pay typically must either have a lawyer prepare
a formal motion for a cost waiver and then docket
the motion before the local criminal court, or
attempt to do so themselves acting pro se (i.e.
on their own, without legal representation). To
complicate matters further, the court systems and
procedures for preparing and processing cost
waivers vary dramatically from county to county.132
Thus, although cost waivers are available, the
people who need them most often have the least
access to the resources necessary to navigate the
system for obtaining them. After all, many of the
same individuals who are too indigent to pay their
LFOs are also too indigent to afford the legal
help, and many legal aid organizations do not
have the capacity or resources to fill this gap.133

The waiver processes
currently offered
do not effectively
eliminate fines, fees,
and restitution as
barriers to democratic
participation.

States with waivers have taken a step in the right
direction, both in acknowledging that many
people who interact with the criminal justice
system and are saddled with LFOs are unable to
pay them, and in recognizing that these people
should not be permanently disenfranchised on
the basis of their inability to pay. But as a practical
matter, the waiver processes currently offered do
not effectively eliminate fines, fees, and restitution
as barriers to democratic participation.

132	 As the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (“TACIR”) found, “[b]ecause of judges’ discretion, there is
variation in who is declared indigent across the state,” though “stakeholders and court clerks agreed that indigency is a critical
issue to address.” TACIR, Tennessee’s Court Fees and Taxes: Funding the Courts Fairly 28 (2017), https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/
tn/tacir/documents/2017_CourtFees.pdf.
133	 See id. (“In criminal circuit court cases, a defendant who is found guilty is responsible for court costs, even if a defendant [is]
qualified for a public defender or appointed counsel.”).

31

There is evidence that
suggests voting rights
restoration improves
re‑entry and reduces
recidivism.

Conclusion
The surest way to eliminate the impact of wealth
on access to the ballot for people with convictions
is to abolish felony disenfranchisement. But
states can take important steps short of that to
ensure that wealth does not pose a barrier to the
ballot box.

Absent abolition, the most effective way
to ensure that inability to pay does not
preclude ability to vote is to restore
voting rights automatically upon
release from incarceration.
This is because, in most states, current forms of
post‑incarceration supervision are inextricably
bound up with legal debt, such that rights
restoration conditioned on completion of
probation or parole is implicitly conditioned on
ability to pay. Not only is automatic restoration
easier to administer and on stronger constitutional
footing, it is sound policy for everyone. Evidence

suggests voting rights restoration improves
re‑entry and reduces recidivism.134 And, states
are slowly moving in this direction, with both
Colorado and Nevada adopting automatic
restoration statutes in 2019.
Absent automatic restoration upon release from
prison, states that condition rights restoration on
completion of probation or parole must introduce
policies that ensure individuals are never kept on
supervision due to unpaid legal debt and
introduce robust and easy to access waiver
programs for those who cannot afford to pay.
Similarly, states that explicitly condition voting
rights restoration on payment of outstanding
legal financial obligations must eliminate those
requirements and introduce the programs
described above. Absent such steps, states will
continue to violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s
mandate in Harper that “[w]ealth, like race, creed,
or color, is not germane to one’s ability to
participate intelligently in the electoral process.”

134	 See, e.g., Christopher Uggen & Jeff Manza, Voting and Subsequent Crime and Arrest: Evidence from a Community Sample, 36
Columbia Human Rights L. Rev. 193 (2004); Fl. Parole Comm’n, Status Update: Restoration of Civil Rights’ (RCR) Cases Granted
2009 and 2010 (2011), https://www.fcor.state.fl.us/docs/reports/2009-2010ClemencyReport.pdf.

33

Appendix
Note on Methodology
While this report was being researched, UCLA Law
Professor Beth Colgan made a major contribution
to the research on this topic, publishing
Wealth‑Based Penal Disenfranchisement in the
Vanderbilt Law Review, analyzing the intersection
of LFOs and felony disenfranchisement and
describing a theory for constitutional challenge of
these restrictions.135 The authors of this report
recognize this important contribution to the field
and relied in part upon Professor Colgan’s research
to verify their findings.
This report’s approach to categorizing states
based on their rights restoration provisions differs
from Professor Colgan’s in several respects. Unlike

135	72 Vanderbilt L. Rev. 55 (2019).

34

Professor Colgan’s report, which lists all forms of
potential wealth‑based disenfranchisement in
every state, here states are categorized according
to their most restrictive form of wealth‑based
disenfranchisement. For example, per an Attorney
General opinion, Georgia explicitly requires the
payment of certain fines to restore voting rights.
Therefore, Georgia’s rights restoration scheme
is categorized as an explicit form of wealth‑based
disenfranchisement. With respect to other fees,
however, non‑payment is not an explicit bar to
voting rights restoration but may delay completion
of parole and probation. That creates an implicit
financial barrier as well, thus Georgia also could
be included in that category, though the authors
have not done so in this report. That said, where

both forms of disenfranchisement could impact
access to the right to vote, that is noted in Table
4. Further, this report does not consider the
impact of LFOs on clemency applications unless
a pardon is the only available option for voting
rights restoration. This is because where
automatic restoration is available, it will be the
primary mechanism for restoring voting rights for
most people.
In this report, we categorize states that enfranchise
individuals upon release from incarceration as
states without the modern poll tax. Professor
Colgan’s paper argues that even these states
could lead to wealth‑based disenfranchisement
because parole or probation might be revoked—
and the individual may return to prison—because

of failure to pay.136 But under Bearden v.
Georgia,137 a state cannot constitutionally
re‑incarcerate a person on parole or probation
for failure to pay LFOs without consideration of
their ability to pay. Thus, absent Bearden
violations (which may, of course, occur), states
that grant the right to vote upon release from
incarceration should not disenfranchise individuals
solely for inability to pay their financial obligations.
As such, we consider these states to have
eliminated the modern‑day poll tax. Because
Bearden does not necessarily bar states from
considering payment of LFOs when considering
early release or extension of parole or probation,
states that condition the right to vote on
completion of parole or probation are far more
likely to result in wealth‑based disenfranchisement.

136	Colgan, supra, at 79-80.
137	 461 U.S. 660 (1983).

35

Table 1:
Survey of Disenfranchisement Laws

36

State

Restrictions

Citation

Alabama

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Alabama Code Title 17 § 3‑30‑31

Alaska

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Alaska Statutes § 15.05.030

Arizona

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Arizona Revised Statutes § 16‑101

Arkansas

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Arkansas Constitution amendment LI, § 11

California

Prison & Parole

California Constitution Article 2 § 4

Colorado

Prison & Parole

Colorado Constitution Article 7 § 10

Connecticut

Prison & Parole

Connecticut General Statutes § 9‑45

Delaware

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Delaware Code Title 15 § 6102‑3

District of Columbia

Prison Only

D.C. Code § 1‑1001.02

Florida

Prison, Parole, Probation

Florida Constitution Article VI § 4

Georgia

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Georgia Code § 21‑2‑216

Hawaii

Prison Only

Hawaii Revised Statutes § 831‑2

Idaho

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Idaho Code § 18‑310

Illinois

Prison Only

Illinois Compiled Statutes § 5‑5‑5

Indiana

Prison Only

Indiana Code § 3‑7‑13‑4

Iowa

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Iowa Code § 48A.6

Kansas

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Kansas Statutes § 21‑6613

Kentucky

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Kentucky Constitution § 145

Louisiana

Prison, Parole, & Probation unless 5 years
have passed on probation or since release
from prison

Louisiana Statutes 18:102

Maine

No restrictions

Maine Constitution Article II § 1

Table 1:
Survey of Disenfranchisement Laws (cont.)
State

Restrictions

Citation

Massachusetts

Prison Only

Massachusetts Constitution Article III

Maryland

Prison Only

Maryland Constitution § 3‑102

Michigan

Prison Only

Michigan Election Law § 168.758b

Minnesota

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Minnesota Statutes § 201.014

Mississippi

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Mississippi Constitution Article 12 § 241

Missouri

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Missouri Statutes § 115.133

Montana

Prison Only

Montana Constitution Article IV § 2

Nebraska

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Nebraska Statutes § 29‑112

Nevada

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Nevada Statutes 176A.850

New Hampshire

Prison Only

New Hampshire Statutes § 607‑A:2

New Jersey

Prison, Parole & Probation

New Jersey Statutes § 19:4‑1

New Mexico

Prison, Parole, & Probation

New Mexico Statutes § 1‑4‑27.1

New York

Prison & Parole

New York Election Law § 5‑106

North Carolina

Prison, Parole & Probation

North Carolina Statutes § 163A‑841

North Dakota

Prison Only

North Dakota Century Code § 12.1‑33‑03

Ohio

Prison Only

Ohio Constitution Article 5 § 4

Oklahoma

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Oklahoma Statutes Title 26 § 26‑4‑101

Oregon

Prison Only

Oregon Statutes § 137.281

Rhode Island

Prison Only

Rhode Island Constitution Article II § 1

Pennsylvania

Prison Only

Pennsylvania Statutes 25 § 2602(w)(14)

37

Table 1:
Survey of Disenfranchisement Laws (cont.)

38

State

Restrictions

Citation

South Carolina

Prison, Parole, & Probation

South Carolina Code § 7‑5‑120(B)(2)‑(3)

South Dakota

Prison, Parole, & Probation

South Dakota Statutes § 12‑4‑18

Tennessee

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Tennessee Constitution Article 4 § 2

Texas

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Texas Election Code § 11.002

Utah

Prison Only

Utah Code 20A‑1 § 101.5

Vermont

No restrictions

Vermont Constitution Chapter II § 42

Virginia

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Virginia Constitution Article II § 1

Washington

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Washington Code 29A.08.520

West Virginia

Prison, Parole, & Probation

West Virginia Code § 3‑2‑2

Wisconsin

Prison, Parole, & Probation

Wisconsin Statutes § 304.078

Wyoming

Prison, Parole, Probation, & Post‑Sentence

Wyoming Statutes Title 7 § 7‑13‑1057‑15

Table 2:
Poverty Rates of States with Modern Poll Taxes
State

Poverty Rate*

African
American
Poverty Rate

State (cont.)

Poverty Rate*

African
American
Poverty Rate

Alabama

15.8%

24%

Mississippi

19.5%

29%

Alaska

12.1%

N/A

Missouri

11.3%

21%

Arizona

15.5%

19%

Nebraska

10.1%

25%

Arkansas

15.6%

25%

New Jersey

9.7%

15%

California

13.4%

17%

New Mexico

18.7%

23%

Connecticut

9.9%

12%

North Carolina

14.4%

19%

Delaware

10.6%

17%

South Carolina

14.6%

22%

Florida

14.3%

19%

South Dakota

12.9%

N/A

Georgia

15.6%

19%

Tennessee

13.7%

22%

Idaho

11.7%

54%

Texas

14.0%

17%

Iowa

9.7%

29%

Virginia

10.8%

16%

Kansas

13.4%

24%

Washington

10.7%

17%

Kentucky

16%

22%

West Virginia

16.6%

28%

Louisiana

20.0%

31%

Wisconsin

10.5%

27%

Minnesota

8.6%

26%

Wyoming

11.0%

N/A

*U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey,
2015 to 2018 Annual Social and Economic Supplements.

39

Table 3:
2016 Sentencing Project Estimates of Disenfranchisement
State

Total

Disenfranchised
But not Incarcerated

AA Disenfranchised

AA Disenfranchised
But not Incarcerated

Alabama*

286266

254103

143924

141326

Alaska

14439

8935

1450

929

Arizona*

221170

175320

25492

19252

Arkansas

66705

46506

26106

17520

California

222557

86255

63390

23939

Connecticut

17345

2419

7263

1041

Delaware

15716

8858

8113

4203

Georgia

248751

193739

144546

112668

Idaho

23106

14919

580

311

Iowa

52012

42475

6879

4379

Kansas

17594

7449

5601

2185

Kentucky

312046

287039

69771

63302

Louisiana*

108035

69210

68065

42113

Minnesota

63340

51363

15432

11273

Mississippi

218181

203007

127130

117448

Missouri

89665

55678

30374

17298

Nebraska

17564

10803

3540

1750

New Jersey

94315

72955

47470

34709

New Mexico

24286

16190

1581

970

North Carolina

91179

51845

42905

21393

South Carolina

47238

26086

38916

25425

South Dakota

10392

6758

363

150

Tennessee

421227

389193

173895

158939

Texas

495928

327665

147727

89240

Virginia*

508680

467081

271944

248167

Washington

48552

28975

7987

4493

West Virginia

14727

7296

1792

763

Wisconsin

65606

41637

22447

12535

Wyoming

23847

21170

966

837

Florida*

The Sentencing Project, 6 Million Lost Voters: State‑Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement (2016),
https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp‑content/uploads/2016/10/6‑Million‑Lost‑Voters.pdf#page=17.
*Estimates are not yet available for Florida in light of the constitutional and statutory changes to the law in 2018 and
2019. Due to changes in the law or executive action, the estimates from 2016 for the starred states may not reflect
current disenfranchisement rates.

40

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration
State

Type of Restriction

Alabama

Post‑Sentence – Some or All

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions
Ala. Const. Art. VIII § 177; Ala.
Code § 17‑3‑30.1, § 15‑22‑36.1,
§ 17‑3‑31.

Explicit LFO Obligation
Yes

Implicit LFO Obligation: Not relevant since Alabama requires full payment of LFOs to restore voting rights
even if parole or probation is complete.

Alaska

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Alaska Stat. §§ 15.05.030,
15.80.010(10), 12.55.185(18),
33.16.210, 33.16.150(b)(6),
12.55.051(c), 12.55.090(g)(4),
12.55.100(a)(2).

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, failure to pay LFOs can foreclose early discharge from parole or probation.

Alaska Stat. §§ 33.16.150(b)(6). 12.55.100(a)(2) provides that payment of restitution or fines may be
imposed as condition of parole or probation. Alaska Statutes section 33.16.210 makes early discharge from
parole conditional upon compliance with all parole requirements. Section 12.55.090(g)(4) provides that a
probation officer shall recommend early discharge from probation if the defendant is in compliance with
all conditions of probation. But, per section 12.55.051(c), an individual may request the opportunity to
demonstrate inability to pay. If he or she succeeds, the court may modify the fine.

Arizona

Post‑Sentence – Some or All

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§
16‑101(A)(5), 13‑912, 13‑908,
13‑910, 13–905, 13‑906, 31‑411,
31‑412.

Yes, but H.B. 2800 eliminates
this requirement except for
restitution.

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, completion of sentence is required for both automatic rights restoration and

rights restoration through a state court petition. Under Arizona Statute sections 31‑411 and 31‑412, payment
of restitution, fines, and fees are conditions of parole and failure to pay can extend time under supervision.

Arkansas

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Ark. Const. amend. 51, §§ 11(a)
(4), 11(d)(2)(A), 11(d)(2)(B).

Yes

Implicit LFO Obligation: Not relevant since Arkansas requires full payment of LFOs to restore voting
rights even if parole or probation is complete.

41

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration (cont.)
State

Type of Restriction

California

Prison and Parole Only

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions
Cal. Const. art. 2, § 4; Cal. Elec.
Code § 2101(a); Cal. Penal Code
§ 3000(b)(7); 15 CCR § 2535.

Explicit LFO Obligation
No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, early parole may be withheld because of failure to pay fines or restitution.
Under California Penal Code section 3000(b)(7), payment of fines or restitution may be a condition of
parole. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation indicates that parolees are not eligible
for early release absent reasonable payments of restitution. However, the regulations governing the
discretion of the Board of Parole Hearings, 15 CCR § 2535 does not list fines or fees among the factors
relevant to whether an individual should be discharged from parole.

Colorado

Prison Only

Colo. Const. art. 7 §10, Colo.
Rev. Stat. § 1‑2‑103(4); H.B.
19‑1266 (2019).

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, as of July 1, 2019, Colorado grants persons with past convictions the right to
vote immediately upon release from incarceration.

Connecticut

Prison and Parole Only

Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 9‑46a(a)‑(b),
45, 54‑125e, 53a‑30, 54‑129.

Yes (but pending bill HB 7160
may remove this provision).

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, under sections 54‑125e and 53a‑30 of the Connecticut Statutes, payment
of restitution may be a condition of parole and thus payment could affect discharge from parole. However,
section 54‑129, which governs discharge from parole, does not appear to require payment of fines as a
precondition to discharge.

Delaware

Post‑Sentence ‑Some or All

Del. Const., art. 5, § 2; Del.
Code Ann. tit. 15 §§ 6102,
6103; Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, §
4104.

No. SB 242, effective 2016,
eliminated a previous explicit
fines/fees requirement.

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, for individuals without a disqualifying felony, voting rights are restored upon
completion of parole and probation. Section 4104 of title 11 of the Delaware Code provides that payment of
fines, costs or restitution “shall be a condition of the probation.” For individuals with disqualifying felonies,
the pardon procedure includes consideration of outstanding LFOs. See Delaware Board of Pardons Checklist,
Del. Bd. Pardons, https://pardons.delaware.gov/wp‑content/uploads/sites/42/2017/03/PardonApp‑pack.pdf.

District of
Columbia

Prison Only

D.C. Code §§ 1‑1001.02,
1‑1001.02(7); D.C. Mun. Regs.
tit. 3, §§ 500.2(c), 500.15.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, the District of Columbia grants persons with past convictions the right to vote
immediately upon release from incarceration.

42

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration (cont.)
State

Type of Restriction

Florida

Post‑Sentence ‑Some or All

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions
Fla. Const. art. VI §4, Fla. Stat.
§§ 97.041(2)(b), 940.05, 951.29.

Explicit LFO Obligation
Yes

Implicit LFO Obligation: Not relevant since Florida requires full payment of LFOs to restore voting rights
even if parole or probation is complete.

Georgia

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Ga. Laws §§ 17‑10‑8,
21‑2‑216(b), 42‑9‑44(a); Ga.
Const. art. 2, § 1, ¶ III; Ga. Op.
Att’y. Gen. No. 86‑15, 1986 WL
79908; Ga. Op. Att’y. Gen. No.
84‑33, 1984 WL 59904.

Yes. The Georgia Attorney
General’s office has interpreted
the completion of sentence
requirement to require the
payment of fines imposed as part
of the sentence. Ga. Op. Atty.
Gen. No. 84‑33, 1984 WL 59904.

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, Georgia Code section 17‑10‑8 provides that a judge may impose a fine as a

condition of probation. Georgia Code section 42‑9‑44(a) provides that payment of restitution and payments
to dependents may be made conditions of parole.

Hawaii

Prison Only

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 831‑2.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Hawaii grants persons with past convictions the right to vote immediately
upon release from incarceration.

Idaho

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Idaho Const. art. VI, § 3; Idaho
Code §§ 18‑310(2), 19‑2601,
20‑225, 20‑233.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, Idaho Code Section 20‑225 requires individuals on parole or probation to
pay the cost of supervision fees. An individual who demonstrates an inability to work may be relieved from
this obligation. More broadly, the court can impose whatever conditions of probation it “deems necessary
and appropriate” under Section 19‑2601. Thus, early release from supervision under Section 20‑233 could
be affected by failure to meet these conditions.
Illinois

Prison Only

Ill. Const. art. III, § 2; 10 Ill.
Comp. Stat. 5/3‑5; 730 Ill.
Comp. Stat. 5/5‑5‑5(c).

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Illinois grants persons with past convictions the right to vote immediately
upon release from incarceration.

43

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration (cont.)
State

Type of Restriction

Indiana

Prison Only

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions
Ind. Const. art. II, § 8; Ind. Code
§ 3‑7‑13‑4; see Snyder v. King,
958 N.E.2d 764, 785‑86 (Ind.
2011).

Explicit LFO Obligation
No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Indiana grants persons with past convictions the right to vote immediately
upon release from incarceration.

Iowa

Post‑Sentence ‑Some or All

Iowa Const. art. II, § 5; Iowa
Code §§ 48A.6, 905.14, 907.7,
907.9; Iowa Admin. Code r.
201‑45.2(906), 201‑45.6(906),
205‑13.1(906).

Yes, the Governor’s restoration
application process requires
completion of LFOs or
compliance with payment plan.

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, an application for voting rights restoration requires completion of sentence,
including parole and probation. Payment of restitution and other legal debt can be conditions for parole or
probation, and failure to pay can affect the length of supervision. Iowa Code § 905.14; Iowa Admin. Code
r. 201‑45.2(906); 201‑45.6(906); 205‑13.1(906). Indeed, the Iowa Code specifically hinges early discharge
from probation upon payment of fees. Iowa Code §§ 907.7, 907.9

Kansas

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Kan. Stat. §§ 21‑6607(b)(7),
21‑6607(b)(13), 22‑3717(d)(5)
(m), ‑3722; Kan. Admin. Regs. §
45‑1000‑1.

Unclear. Voting rights restoration
requires completion of “terms of
the authorized sentence.” There
is no publicly available definition
of this term as used here.

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, restitution may be a condition of parole or probation. Kan. Admin. Regs. §
45‑1000‑1. Kansas Statute section 21‑6607(b)(7) provides that a court may impose a fine as a condition of
probation, and section 21‑6607(b)(13) provides that a court must require the defendant to pay a probation
fee. Parolees may also be required to pay certain fees and costs. Kan. Stat. § 22‑3717(d)(5)(m). Thus, failure
to pay legal debt can affect the length of supervised release. See Kan. Stat. §§ 22‑3717, ‑3722.

Kentucky

Post‑Sentence ‑Some or All

Ky. Const. § 145; Ky. Rev. Stat.
§§ 196.045, 439.563, 533.020.

Yes, the Governor’s restoration
application requires payment of
all restitution and considers other
outstanding LFOs.

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, the Governor’s restoration application requires completion of sentence.
See Ky. Rev. Stat. § 196.045. Restitution is a required condition of parole, and supervised release must
be extended until restitution is fully paid or the maximum sentence is reached. Ky. Rev. Stat. § 439.563.
Kentucky law also permits imposition of certain costs as conditions of probation. Ky. Rev. Stat. § 533.020.

44

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration (cont.)
State

Type of Restriction

Louisiana

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions
La. Const. art. I, § 10; La. Stat.
§§ 18:177, 18:177.1, 18:102,
15:574.4.2, 15:574.9.

Explicit LFO Obligation
No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, Louisiana Statutes section 15:574.4.2 permits the imposition of supervision
fees and restitution as conditions of parole. Compliance with these financial conditions of parole can impact
the length of supervision. See La. Rev. Stat. § 15:574.9.

Maine

None

Me. Const. art. II §1.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Maine has no restrictions on voting on the basis of felony convictions.
Maryland

Prison Only

Md. Code Ann., Elec. § 3‑102

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Maryland grants persons with past convictions the right to vote immediately
upon release from incarceration.

Massachusetts

Prison Only

Mass. Const. amend. art. III.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Massachusetts grants persons with past convictions the right to vote
immediately upon release from incarceration.

Michigan

Prison Only

Mich. Const. art. II, § 2; Mich.
Comp. Laws §§ 168.758b,
168.492a.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Michigan grants persons with past convictions the right to vote immediately
upon release from incarceration.

Minnesota

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Minn. Stat. §§ 609.135,
609.3751, 609B.610, 201.014.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, Minnesota Statutes section 609.135 states that fines and restitution

payments may be made conditions of probation and failure to pay can lead to modified probation terms.
See also § 609.3751 (making failure to comply with a written agreement for payment of child support and
arrearage an obstacle to discharge from probation).

45

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration (cont.)
State

Type of Restriction

Mississippi

Post‑Sentence ‑Some or All

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions
Miss. Const. art. 12, § 241; Miss.
Code §§ 23‑15‑11, 47‑7‑35(1)(h),
47‑7‑37(1), 47‑7‑38(1), 47‑7‑41;
Op. Atty. Gen. No. 2000‑0473,
2000 WL 1511821.

Explicit LFO Obligation
No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, informal policy appears to require completion of sentence for rights
restoration applications to the legislature or Governor. Mississippi Code section 47‑7‑35(1)(h) lists payment
of a fine as a condition of probation and parole, and failure to pay can extend supervision. Miss. Code §§
47‑7‑37(1), 47‑7‑38(1).

Missouri

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 115.133,
217.690, 217.703, 559.036,
559.105.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, Missouri Statutes section 217.690 provides for the (discretionary) imposition
of a supervision fee for probation and parole. Sections 217.703 and 559.105 explicitly condition discharge
from probation or parole on full payment of restitution. Section 559.036 permits a court to extend
probation upon violation of conditions of probation or parole.

Montana

Prison Only

Mont. Const. art. IV, § 2; Mont.
Code § 46‑18‑801.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Montana grants persons with past convictions the right to vote immediately
upon release from incarceration.

Nebraska

Post‑Sentence ‑Some or All

Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 29‑112,
32‑313, 83‑1,116.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, Nebraska Statutes section 83‑1,116 provides permissible conditions
for parole, which do not explicitly include fines or fees, but do include “any other conditions specially
related to the cause of his or her offense and not unduly restrictive of his or her liberty or conscience.”
The Nebraska Board of Parole Rules include parole fees and provide that failure to pay “fines, court
costs, restitution, or any fees” is a violation of parole. See Nebraska Board of Parole Rules, https://parole.
nebraska.gov/sites/parole.nebraska.gov/files/doc/10‑3‑2017%20Board%20of%20Parole%20Rules%20‑%20
website.pdf.

Nevada

Prison Only

Nev. Const. art. 2, § 1; Nev. Rev.
Stat. §§ 176A.850, 213.157,
213.155, 213.1076, 213.020.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, as of July 1, 2019 Nevada grants persons with past convictions the right to
vote immediately upon release from incarceration.

46

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration (cont.)
State

Type of Restriction

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions

Explicit LFO Obligation

New
Hampshire

Prison only

N.H. Stat. §607‑A:2.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, New Hampshire grants persons with past convictions the right to vote
immediately upon release from incarceration.

New Jersey

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

N.J. Const. art. 2, § 1, ¶ 7;
N.J. Rev. Stat. §§ 19:4‑1,
2c:45‑1, 2c:45‑2; 30:4‑123.59,
30:4‑123.60.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, the New Jersey Revised Statues section 30:4‑123.59 makes payment of

restitution and fines conditions of parole. Section 30:4‑123.60 authorizes extension of parole based on
violations of conditions of parole. Section 2c:45‑1 lists paying a fine, as well as restitution or an oversight
fee, as acceptable probation conditions. Section 2c:45‑2 authorizes extension of probation upon failure to
meet probation conditions.

New Mexico

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

N. M. Stat. §§1‑4‑27.1, 31‑13‑1;
N.M. Corr. Dep’t, Policy
CD‑050200 (Mar. 9, 2017); N.M.
Corr. Dep’t, Policy CD‑051500 1,
3‑4 (July 31, 2015).

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, New Mexico Corrections Department policies indicate that paying any
fines levied by the court is an element of completing parole, and paying supervision fees is an element of
completing probation. The policies also specify that payment of restitution and fines shall be conditions
of supervision and payment is a condition for early release from supervision. See N.M. Corr. Dep’t, Policy
CD‑050200 (Mar. 9, 2017) N.M. Corr. Dep’t, Policy CD‑051500 1, 3‑4 (July 31, 2015).

New York

Prison Only
(by Executive Order)

N.Y. Elec. Law § 5‑106; N.Y.
Exec. Order No. 181 (2018).

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, pursuant to Executive Order No. 181, citizens with past convictions are
eligible for rights restoration after release from incarceration even if they remain on parole or probation.

North Carolina

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 163A‑841,
13‑1, 163A‑885, 15A‑1374,
15A‑1343, 15A‑1371.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, supervision conditions may include supervision fees, court costs, fines,
restitution, and reparations. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A‑1374. Failure to abide by those conditions can affect
eligibility for early release from supervision. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A‑1371.

47

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration (cont.)
State

Type of Restriction

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions

Explicit LFO Obligation

North Dakota

Prison only

N.D. Cent. Code §12.1‑33‑03.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, North Dakota grants persons with past convictions the right to vote
immediately upon release from incarceration.

Ohio

Prison Only

Ohio Const. art. 5 §4; Ohio Rev.
Code Ann. § 2961.01.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Ohio grants persons with past convictions the right to vote immediately upon
release from incarceration.

Oklahoma

Post‑Sentence‑Some or All

Okla. Stat. tit. 26 § 4‑101.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, since Oklahoma restores the right to vote automatically and only upon
expiration of the maximum sentence, the impact of fines and fees on parole and/or probation is irrelevant.

Oregon

Prison Only

Or. Rev. Stat. §137.281.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Oregon grants persons with past convictions the right to vote immediately
upon release from incarceration.

Pennsylvania

Prison Only

25 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 2602(w)
(14), 3146.1.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Pennsylvania grants persons with past convictions the right to vote
immediately upon release from incarceration.

Rhode Island

Prison Only

RI Const. art. 2, §  1.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Rhode Island grants persons with past convictions the right to vote
immediately upon release from incarceration.

South Carolina

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

S.C. Code Ann. §§ 7‑5‑120(B)
(2), (B)(3), 24‑21‑80, 24‑21‑430,
24‑21‑440.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, section 24‑21‑430 of the South Carolina Code lists payment of fines as a condition
of probation, and Section 24‑21‑80 says that both probationers and parolees have to pay supervision fees.
Section 24‑21‑440 permits a court to extend probation so long as it does not exceed five years.

48

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration (cont.)
State

Type of Restriction

South Dakota

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions
S.D. Codified Laws §§
12‑4‑18, 16‑22‑29, 23A‑27‑18,
23‑A‑27‑25.1, 23A‑27‑35,
24‑15‑11, 24‑15A‑24,
24‑15A‑50.

Explicit LFO Obligation
No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, sections 23A‑27‑18, 23‑A‑27‑25.1, 24‑15‑11, and 24‑15A‑24 of the South
Dakota Codified Laws provide for payment of LFOs as a condition of parole or probation. Per sections
16‑22‑29 and 24‑15A‑50, discharge from supervision may depend upon compliance with all conditions of
supervision.

Tennessee

Post‑Sentence ‑Some or All

Tenn. Const. art. 4, § 2; Tenn.
Code Ann. §§ 40‑29‑204, §
40‑29‑202.

Yes

Implicit LFO Obligation: Not relevant. Tennessee requires full payment of LFOs to restore voting rights
even if parole or probation is complete.

Texas

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Tex. Const. art. 6, § 1; Tex.
Election Code Ann. § 11.002;
Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann.
art. 42.037, 42A.651, 42A.652,
42A.701 (b)(1), 42A.753;
BPP‑Pol. 145.258; Tex. Gov’t
Code Ann. §§ 508.182,
508.1555.

Unclear. Texas law requires a
person to be “fully discharged”
from their sentence to vote.
Definitive interpretation of this
phrase for purposes of voting is
not publicly available.

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, Texas law requires the payment of restitution as a condition of supervised
release. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. §§ 42.037, 42A.651; see also BPP‑Pol. 145.258. Texas law also provides
for the imposition of fines and fees as conditions of supervision. See Tex. Gov’t Code Ann. § 508.182, Tex.
Crim. Proc. Ann. § 42A.652. Payment of legal debt affects eligibility for early release from supervision. Tex.
Gov’t Code Ann. § 508.1555, Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. § 42A.753. Indeed, reduction of probation cannot
be considered if the defendant “is delinquent in paying required [LFOs].” Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. §
42A.701(b)(1).

Utah

Prison Only

Utah Code Ann. §§ 20A‑2‑101,
20A‑1‑101.5.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Utah grants persons with past convictions the right to vote immediately
upon release from incarceration.

Vermont

None

Vt. Const. chap. II, §42.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: No, Vermont has no restrictions on voting on the basis of felony convictions.
49

Table 4:
Explicit and Implicit LFO Requirements
for Voting Rights Restoration (cont.)
State

Type of Restriction

Governing Statutes and/or
Constitutional Provisions

Virginia

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation (by
executive action)

Va. Const. art. 2, § 1; Va. Const.
art. 5, § 12; Va. Code Ann. §§
19.2‑305, 19.2‑356.

Explicit LFO Obligation
No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, under the Governor’s current policy, voting rights may be restored after
completion of sentence, including parole and/or probation. Sections 19.2‑305 and 19.2‑356 of the
Virginia Code establish that fines and costs may be established as a condition of probation. While section
19.2‑305(C) provides that failure to pay LFOs should not be the sole reason for prolonged supervision, that
provision only applies if the relevant officials do not object.

Washington

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Wash. Rev. Code §
29A.08.520(1).

Yes.

Implicit LFO Obligation: Not relevant, the state of Washington explicitly requires good faith payments
toward LFOs to maintain voting rights.

West Virginia

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

W. Va. Const. art. IV, § 1; W.
Va. Code §§ 3‑2‑2, 62‑12‑9,
62‑12‑11, 62‑12‑17.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, section 62‑12‑9 of the West Virginia Code lists fees, fines and restitution
as conditions of probation. Section 62‑12‑17 allows supervision fees as a condition of parole. Discharge
from probation—which can be extended up to seven years—depends upon completion of conditions of
supervision. W. Va. Code § 62‑12‑11 (2017).

Wisconsin

Completion of Sentence
Including Probation

Wis. Stat. §§ 6.03, 304.078,
973.05, 973.09.

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, section 973.05 of the Wisconsin Statutes lists fines, costs, fees, and surcharges
as acceptable conditions for probation. Section 973.09 requires restitution to be a condition of probation
unless the court finds a “substantial reason” not to, in which case it has to state why on the record.

Wyoming

Post‑Sentence ‑Some or All

Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 7‑9‑109,
7‑13‑421, 7‑13‑302, 7‑13‑305
7‑13‑1057‑15, 22‑3‑102(a)(v).

No

Implicit LFO Obligation: Yes, under sections 7‑9‑109 and 7‑13‑421 of the Wyoming Statutes, payment of
restitution must be a condition of parole or probation. Section 7‑13‑302 authorizes a fine as a condition of
probation. Compliance with all conditions of probation can determine when a person is discharged from
probation. See Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7‑13‑305.

50

 

 

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