Randi Lynn Williams assumes she will never be able to afford to vote again. The 38-year-old Dothan resident lost her right to vote in 2008, when she was convicted of fraudulent use of a credit card. She was on probation for over two years, then served a few months behind bars ending in early 2011, at which point she would have been eligible to vote in most states. In Maine and Vermont, she would have never lost that right in the first place. But in Alabama and eight other states from Nevada to Tennessee, anyone who has lost the franchise cannot regain it until they pay off any outstanding court fines, legal fees and victim restitution. In Alabama, that requirement has fostered an underclass of thousands of people who are unable to vote because they do not have enough money.
For folks like Williams, who said she regularly voted prior to her conviction in 2008, poverty is the only remaining obstacle to participation in the electoral process.
“When all this started, the county told me I lost my right to vote and I don’t get my vote back until I pay all my fines and costs and get off probation and all that,” she said.
Alabama’s felon disenfranchisement policies are likely unconstitutional, and they have disparate impacts on felons who are poor, black, or both, according to experts.