Felons must pay off all fines, court fees before their right to vote is restored under GOP bill

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A pair of Republican lawmakers introduced legislation that would require convicted felons to pay fines, costs, fees, restitution, and complete court-ordered community service before their right to vote is restored.

Bill sponsors Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) and Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) began circulating a co-sponsor memo Tuesday for their proposal that seeks to "ensure justice is entirely served and full accountability is given to those that still owe a debt to society, notably to their victims."

Under current state law, felons lose the right to vote after they've been convicted of certain crimes. Voting rights are automatically restored upon completion of a sentence, parole, and probation.

In addition to serving their full sentence, an individual would have to pay all fines, court fees, restitution, or any other costs related to their crime and finish community service obligations before they registered to vote, under the bill.

"When citizens break the law, they forfeit some of their rights, including the right to vote," the co-sponsor memo states. "That right should be restored, but only when all debts to society are paid. Otherwise, victims’ rights are undermined."

Rep. Lisa Subeck, who serves on the Assembly Elections Committee, said the proposal would move state in the "wrong direction."

“Any attempt to further disenfranchise an individual or group of people clearly moves us in the wrong direction," Subeck said in a statement. "These are people who have served their time and earned the restoration of their right to vote. This proposal to tie a monetary requirement to the right to vote sounds dangerously close to implementing a poll tax.”

Last year, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a series of Republican authored election bills arguing they made it more difficult to vote. A spokeswoman for Evers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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