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Bill would force criminals to pay fines before reclaiming the right to vote | News



GOP Bill: Criminals Must Pay Fines Before Voting

MADISON (WKOW) – Two GOP lawmakers are circulating a bill this week that would prevent convicted felons from voting until they have paid the fines and costs associated with their sentence.

Currently, under state law, those convicted of a felony can vote after they have served time in jail or jail and any subsequent probation or parole.

Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) and Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg) drafted a bill that would also require criminals and those convicted of treason or bribery to pay fines, fees or charges. restitution before recovering the right to vote.

“You’ve served your prison sentence and maybe probation or parole – it’s fantastic, it’s part of what you need to do to get justice done, but there’s another element,” said Sortwell in an interview on Wednesday. “You have to restore, you have to make sure that if you’ve violated someone else’s rights, those rights are restored.”

Critics of the bill said it was a modern ballot tax intended to suppress voting from those most likely to struggle with paying fines: the poor and people of color.

“It depends on who has the money, who has no money and those who have the money are able to pay the fine and they can vote,” said Representative Gary Hebl (D- Sun Prairie). “It’s still a restriction, in this case, on predominantly African-American men, a restriction on their ability to vote.”

Hebl referred a 2021 report from the Washington, DC-based Sentencing Project, which found that one in 36 black adults in Wisconsin is in prison, the highest rate in the country.

Stroebel said in an emailed statement that the requirement to pay fines was appropriate since those costs are also part of a penalty.

“T“Justice demands are not met until all the conditions for a criminal sentence are met, including restitution, fines, costs and any other financial obligations imposed,” Stroebel said. “I believe that the restoration of his right to vote should depend on the payment of all debts to the company.

Hebl countered that such a position was at odds with how the state approaches other rights it maintains for people who still owe money, using child support as an example.

“When people want to visit their children in a divorce situation, they don’t have to have up-to-date child support in order to have visits, he said.This right is important and the vote, the similarity there, the vote is so important to our democracy. “

According to a Britannica TrackerArizona, Florida and Virginia are currently the only states that require convicted felons also pay fines and costs before they are restored to voting rights.

The Wisconsin bill will remain in circulation until Tuesday for other lawmakers to sign on as co-sponsors. From there, the bill should be scheduled for a committee hearing.