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Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Abstract

Although disenfranchising voters over outstanding legal financial obligations (“LFOs”) is widely criticized, no court has yet been persuaded to strike down these laws. The practice continues to disenfranchise people based on wealth, and disproportionately affects the voting rights of people of color due to inherent racial disparities in socioeconomic status and the American criminal justice system. Although the concept of felon disenfranchisement itself has been affirmatively upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, this Article argues that disenfranchisement for outstanding LFOs is more akin to the poll tax jurisprudence than to the felon-voting cases.

This Article aims to add to a growing body of literature criticizing these practices by providing an extensive examination of the constitutional doctrines and legislative history of both the practice of LFO disenfranchisement as well as the possibly implicated constitutional provisions. This Article ultimately argues that LFO disenfranchisement schemes violate both the Twenty-Fourth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and rendering a necessary change in the way courts should view this issue.

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