Tag Archives: poll tax

Court fines and fees: Another barrier to North Carolina’s ballot box

How much money do you have to pay before you cast your ballot on Election Day?

Image result for court fees
Image: myfloridalaw.com

For most North Carolinians, the answer might seem obvious: none. As the cornerstone of our democracy, voting is supposed to be fair, accessible – and free. But for an increasing number of North Carolinians, the right to vote can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

How is that possible? The answer is because North Carolina denies the right to vote to people who have felony convictions but cannot afford to pay their court costs, even if they have satisfied all other probation requirements.

Thanks to an ever-growing system of mandatory fines and fees, those caught up in the criminal justice system can be forced to pay anywhere from $40 to hundreds of dollars a month for the cost of their court administration, jail fees, probation, electronic monitoring, drug testing, even community service – and more. If they are unable to pay, they face a penalty fee for nonpayment, increasing their fees and lengthening their probation period.

These costs have increased substantially over time. In 1999, the base cost a person would pay for a superior court date was $106. Today the base cost is $198 with the potential to grow to more than $10,000 in serious cases as additional penalties snowball. Even if they have served all the terms of their sentence, even if they have had no probation violations, low-income people often remain on probation simply because they are low-income. And in far too many North Carolina courts, judges will not conduct hearings on a person’s inability to pay, as is required by law.

More from NC Policy Watch

Posted by Libergirl

NC’s new Voter ID rule narrows the right to vote

The most confounding and misleading part of the new voter ID requirement is the “common sense” defense.

Republican state Senate leader Phil Berger said in a TV ad that requiring a photo ID to vote “prevents fraud and protects the integrity of our elections – it’s common sense.” Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the requirement into law saying it was part of “common sense reforms.” At a federal trial in Winston-Salem where the requirement is being challenged, it’s being defended as a commonly used and sensible protection.

Proponents of the requirement, which takes effect with the March 15 primary, say a photo ID is needed to cash a check, board an airplane or even to purchase some cold medications, so certainly it should be required for something as important as voting.

But casting a vote is not a transaction. It does not allow the voter to collect cash. You can’t board the right to vote (though some would hijack it). You cannot cook the right to vote to make methamphetamine.

Your right to vote is not something you obtain after showing proper ID or something you lose if you can’t. Your right to vote is something you already have. It is given to you by the United States Constitution.

More from Ned Barnett @ The News & Observer

Posted by Libergirl