Should Felons Have to Pay Court Costs As a Step to Getting Their Voting Rights Back? Some Dems Say No.
Late last Friday, the State House voted on a bill to make paying court costs an additional requirement for convicted felons aiming to have their voting rights restored. Makes sense right? Apparently not to some Democrats. 23 Democrats – including Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh and five members of the leadership team – actually voted in favor of letting these criminals have their voting rights restored without having to pay court costs that were assessed after their convictions. Democrat members voting against the measure follow with the leadership members bolded:
|Leader Gary Odom, Deputy Leader Lois DeBerry, Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, Caucus Treasurer Sherry Jones, Caucus Whip Mark Maddox, Reps. Armstrong, Brown, Camper, Cooper, J. DeBerry, Favors, Gilmore, Hardaway, U. Jones, Kernell, Moore, Naifeh, Pruitt, Richardson, Stewart, Tidwell, Towns, and J. Turner.|
Opponents of the bill contend that indigent individuals aren’t being given a fair shake because they’ll lack the funds to meet the new requirement. However, the legislation contains an amendment excluding individuals from the new requirement if they’re deemed indigent by a court of law. The amendment states:
|[I]n regard to the requirement that the person must have paid all court costs assessed following the conviction, this amendment specifies that this requirement would not apply where the court has made a finding at an evidentiary hearing that the applicant is indigent at the time of application for restoration of suffrage rights.|
With this amendment, Democrats’ attempts to hide behind the indigent argument are a failure. The fact is, they voted on the side of convicted felons instead of on the side of victims, taxpayers, and our justice system. The bipartisan majority of 70 members who voted in favor of the bill believe that if you commit the crime, you should pay the price. Clearly, 23 Democrats don’t agree.