Friday, July 12: Philadelphia, PA 4:15pm - At Netroots Nation
Location: PA Convention Center, 1101 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA
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Are Republicans Trying to Bring Back the Poll Tax?
"Too poor to vote: how Alabama's 'new poll tax' bars thousands of people from voting" - a caller awakened me to this story in The Guardian from Wednesday October 4th and it's pretty shocking.
Yes, poll tax might have originated in Alabama. The poll taxes came out of the South during Reconstruction as a way of keeping poor people - particularly poor black people - from voting.
So Connor Sheets writing in The Guardian:
"Randi Lynn Williams assumes she will never be able to afford to vote again."
Opening sentence. Well, why should anybody have to afford to vote? The 24th amendment says no more poll taxes - it is specifically outlawed in the Constitution. But Randi Lynn Williams, she got in trouble with the law and she lives in Alabama which is one of eight states which includes Nevada, Tennessee and a few others where you may not vote if you owe the government money.
You haven't paid a fine? Haven't paid a fee? Haven't paid a traffic ticket? Haven't paid restitution to the victim of a crime? Haven't paid a fee to the state? You may not vote. Connor Sheets notes...
"In 1964, the 24th amendment abolished the poll tax, but to this day in Alabama, money keeps thousands of people away from the ballot box."
So many thousands of people, just the felons who can't vote are 286,266 people, that's 7.62% of the state's population.
The University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Yale Universities all contributed researchers to look into this situation, what's going on in Alabama. The research paper that they published in June in the Journal of Legal Studies says...
"A majority of all ex-felons in Alabama - white, black, or otherwise - cannot vote because of a debt they owe to the state."
Rich people can buy the right to vote, poor people can't.
"In May, Governor Kay Ivey signed a law called the Definition of Moral Turpitude Act...
The policy requiring them to first pay off any fees, fines and restitution has resulted in a sizeable population of Alabama felons who have not committed crimes that would have resulted in them losing the franchise under the new law, yet they remain unable to restore their voting rights solely because of their financial situation. "
Can't afford to pay your fines? Can't vote in Alabama. that's 286,266 disenfranchised felons, 143,924 of them black disenfranchised felons who make up 15.11% of that state's African-American population.
"Alexandria Parrish, an attorney with Evans Law Firm in Homewood, has years of experience representing clients who have been criminally disenfranchised. She sees the practice as a way to keep poor and black people away from the ballot box."
She said, "This is like Jim Crow 2.0. They can keep them from voting."
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York says that...
"The fact that Alabama 'links voting to the ability to pay' has a disparate impact on black felons that indirectly suppresses the vote of African Americans who are not felons."
This is a problem.