Last updated on: 8/6/2021 | Author:

Should People with Felony Convictions Have to Pay All Fines, Fees, and Restitutions Related to Their Conviction before Regaining Their Vote?

PRO (yes)


William Pryor, JD, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, as quoted by Dan Berman, Caroline Kelly and Fredreka Schouten in a Sep. 11, 2020 article, “Florida Can Bar Ex-Felons from Voting if They Owe Court Payments, Appeals Court Rules,” available at, stated:

“[I]t promotes full rehabilitation of returning citizens and ensures full satisfaction of the punishment imposed for the crimes by which felons forfeited the right to vote… That criminal sentences often include financial obligations does not make this requirement a ‘capricious or irrelevant factor,’ …Monetary provisions of a sentence are no less a part of the penalty that society imposes for a crime than terms of imprisonment. Indeed, some felons face substantial monetary penalties but little or no prison time.”

Sep. 11, 2020


Fred Piccolo, JD, spokesperson for Ron DeSantis, JD, Florida Governor (R), as quoted by the Associated Press in a Sep. 11, 2020 article, “Judges Rule Florida Felons Can’t Vote until They Pay Fines, Fees,” available at, stated:

“[A]ll terms of a sentence means all terms… There are multiple avenues to restore rights, pay off debts, and seek financial forgiveness from one’s victims,. Second chances and the rule of law are not mutually exclusive.”

Sep. 11, 2020


Rob McKenna, JD, Washington Attorney General, and Sam Reed, MA, Washington Secretary of State, stated in a Mar. 29, 2006 Seattle Times article titled “State to Appeal Ruling Granting Voting Rights to Felons Who Owe Fines,” by Rachel La Corte of the Associated Press:

“We believe a rational basis does exist for the Legislature to deny felons the right to vote until they have completed their entire court-ordered sentences, including payment of criminal penalties, victim’s restitution, and legal fees, rather than separating out various sentencing aspects.”

Mar. 29, 2006


The Union-Bulletin Editorial Board (Walla Walla, WA) stated in a Feb. 6, 2007 editorial titled “Felons Should Not Vote Until All Their Fines, Fees Are Paid: Voting Is a Right, But When Citizens Break the Law, They Forfeit Some of Their Rights”:

“When people are convicted of a crime, they are punished by society. That usually means spending time behind bars and paying a fine. In Washington state, it also means suspension of voting rights until the felon’s debts are paid in full. That’s as it should be…

If legislation on felon voting is needed, it is to establish a clear system so that county auditors will know when a felon is eligible to have voting rights restored…

Voting is a right, but when citizens break the law, they forfeit some of their rights. Felons should be made to complete their entire sentences, including probation or parole, and satisfy all related financial obligations before they can resume voting.”

Feb. 6, 2007


Booker T. Stallworth, Communication Director at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, stated in an Apr. 7, 2006 article titled “ACLU’s Lawsuit for Felons’ Voting Rights Dishonors Crime Victims,” published on the Human Events website:

“Too often, the civil rights of crime victims are forgotten. Restitution for the financial, psychological and legal problems that often result from crime is vital for victims to be made whole again…

As we clean ineligible voters from the roll and restore integrity to our voting process, let’s debate victim restitution and other key issues, but let’s do so without resorting to rhetorical hyperbole. Some terms — Nazi, plantation, concentration camp, poll tax, etc. — are too powerful to be cheapened and used inappropriately…

Under the law… ‘restitution may include payment of attorney fees and fines. In addition, offenders living in the community are required to pay supervision fees while under supervision.’ A felon who has not met all of these legal obligations has not paid his or her debt to society in full. So why should a felon’s voting rights be restored before that debt is paid?”

Apr. 7, 2006


The Herald (Everett, WA) stated in an Apr. 6, 2006 editorial titled “Felons Should Pay All Debt Before Voting”:

“If you do the crime, you should do the time — and pay the fine. But according to a ruling last week by a King County Superior Court… Judge Michael Spearman said a state law requiring felons to pay all fines and court-ordered restitution before they can vote violates the U.S. and state constitutions…

These are felons we’re talking about. They chose to break the law. Sorry, but there’s a price to pay for that. And this ruling doesn’t just apply to fines paid to the state — it includes court-ordered restitution to a criminal’s innocent victims. Who is looking out for their interests?

And why shouldn’t states have the right to decide what constitutes full payment of a felon’s debt to society, including the restoration of voting rights? In Washington and other states, prisons are already packed. Using fines and restitutions in felony sentencing is good public policy because it offers a rational alternative to long, costly prison sentences.”

Apr. 6, 2006

CON (no)


Malia Brink, JD, Counsel for Indigent Defense to the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, in a Feb. 9, 2020 article, “Fines, Fees, and the Right to Vote,” available at, stated:

“Voting is the core right of a democracy—the way in which the voice of each citizen finds its way into government. Efforts to keep someone from voting should therefore be of paramount concern. In the Jim Crow era, states enacted a number of laws to impede black people from voting, including residency and property restrictions, literacy tests, and poll taxes. The effort was enormously effective and only with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the use of these discriminatory restrictions banned.

It should be unfathomable to think that in 2020 we would still be fighting the same types of restrictions that impinged the right to vote during the Jim Crow era. But in several states, a form of poll tax persists, banning people who have failed to pay fines and fees from voting. The ABA has taken a stand against conditioning the right to vote on payment of fines and fees and, recently, efforts to abolish these discriminatory limitations on voting have gotten traction.”

Feb. 9, 2020


Paul Smith, JD, Vice President of the Campaign Legal Center, as quoted by Dan Berman, Caroline Kelly and Fredreka Schouten in a Sep. 11, 2020 article, “Florida Can Bar Ex-Felons from Voting if They Owe Court Payments, Appeals Court Rules,” available at, stated:

“[N]obody should ever be denied their constitutional rights because they can’t afford to pay fines and fees.”

Sep. 11, 2020


Alexes Harris, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington, stated in a Jan. 13, 2010 email to

“People should not be barred from voting solely because they are unable to pay back their fines, fees and interest. If we truly want people convicted of felonies to re-engage with society, become rehabilitated, and feel a part of a broader community (thus creating incentives not to recidivate) then our State should do everything possible to re-incorporate these individuals into mainstream society. In terms of being a just and even handed society, it is not fair if thousands of people are unable to re-gain their voting rights because they are poor… People who are wealthy or have access to money are able to repay their financial debts and poor people (the vast majority of people who have felony convictions) are not. This is an unjust system.”

Jan. 13, 2010


Jeanne Kohl-Welles, PhD, Washington State Senator (D-Seattle), stated in a Feb. 14, 2007 article in the Spokesman Review titled “Bill Would Give Felons Voting Rights on Release”:

“I don’t think having the right to vote should be based upon one’s financial status. It smacks too much of class and other forms of bias.”

Feb. 14, 2007


Kathleen Pequeño, Editor of Justice Matters, the newsletter of the Partnership for Safety and Justice (formerly Western Prison Project), wrote in the Fall 2006 article “Should You Have to Pay to Vote?”:

“There is no hard evidence that withholding people’s right to vote will assist them or motivate them to pay off fines, court fees, or restitution. If we want people to be able to pay off fines, fees and restitution, a more logical focus would be on eliminating barriers to employment after incarceration rather than depriving them of a civil right…

Any person who pays money will get his or her right to vote restored sooner. This flies in the face of a principle that is at this point undisputed: the right to cast a vote in a public election should never be tied to the ability to pay money.”

Fall 2006


Neema Trivedi, a former Brennan Center Research Associate, stated in her Oct. 9, 2006 editorial “Ease Ex-Offenders’ Voting Restrictions,” published in the Arizona Daily Star:

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that a person’s ability to pay cannot affect their right to vote, and the 24th Amendment explicitly renders the poll tax unconstitutional.

Yet in Arizona, ex-offenders who have completed all other terms of their sentence for a first conviction, including prison, parole and probation terms, cannot participate in the political process unless they pay their legal financial obligations…

Like its historical predecessor, the poll tax, this law disproportionately impacts low-income voters and people of color.”

Oct. 9, 2006