Last week, Rep. Shae Sortwell and Sen. Duey Stroebel introduced LRB 1886/1 and LRB-5532/1. These bills would prevent or delay people with prior felony convictions from earning back their voting rights based solely on their inability to pay back financial obligations imposed as part of their sentence. 

Take action now to stop this bill. The right to vote should not be based on wealth or a person’s ability to pay. We must learn from our past mistakes and not return to the days of forcing Americans to pay to vote. 

Sortwell and Stroebel are calling this a “common-sense bill.” Still, we see it for what it actually is: a modern-day poll tax that aims to disenfranchise formerly incarcerated people from participating in the most essential exercise in democracy.

People in prison are disproportionately low-income and often return from incarceration with sizable debt that they already struggle to pay off. Requiring people to eliminate that debt before casting their vote puts voting out of reach

Rep. Sortwell and Sen. Stroebel point to a similar bill passed in Florida but fail to mention that that bill has quickly become a nightmare to administer. People in Florida often cannot determine how much they owe or ensure that they are credited with payments they make, resulting in loss of voting rights even after all debts are paid.

This legislation would target Black Wisconsinites and other people of color who are disproportionately impacted by incarceration and serve as yet another tool of voter suppression.

No one should be prevented from voting based strictly on the amount of money they have or their ability to pay. 

Contact Your State Senate and Representative NOW

Sortwell and Stroebel are asking for co-sponsors for this bill by 5 p.m on Tuesday, January 11. Contact your legislators today to let them know  why you oppose LRB 1886/1 and LRB-5532/1. Ask them not to co-sponsor the bills.


To find contact information for your legislators, you can call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-362-9472 or use the “Who Are My Legislators?” on Wisconsin State Legislature Home Page.