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Pepperdine Law Hosts Faculty Workshop Series

UCLA Assistant Professor of Law Beth A. Colgan was the first presenter in the series

Throughout the course of each academic year, Pepperdine Law hosts a series faculty workshops in which the school invites both internal and external faculty to present their scholarship and research. On Monday, September 17, UCLA Assistant Professor of Law Beth A. Colgan presented “Wealth-Based Penal Disenfranchisements”  to the Pepperdine Law faculty. She spoke on constitutional challenges that can be made for people nominally reenfranchised with the vote after criminal convictions but still not being able to vote because many can’t pay the fines and fees.


This Article offers the first comprehensive examination of the way in which the inability to pay economic sanctions may prevent people of limited means from voting. The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionally of penal disenfranchisement upon conviction, and all but two states revoke the right to vote for at least some offenses. The remaining states allow for reenfranchisement under certain conditions. One often overlooked condition is full payment of economic sanctions—fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution—regardless of whether the would-be voter has any meaningful ability to pay. The scope of wealth-based penal disenfranchisement is grossly underestimated, with commentators typically stating that nine states engage in such practices. Through an in-depth examination of a tangle of statutes, administrative rules, and policies related to elections, clemency, parole, and probation, as well as responses from public disclosure requests and discussions with elections and corrections officials and other relevant actors, this Article reveals that wealth-based penal disenfranchisement is authorized in forty-eight states and the District of Columbia.

Colgan’s primary research and teaching interests are in criminal law and procedure and juvenile justice.

The next internal faculty workshop will feature a presentation by Professor Mark Scarberry.