Letter: Do not deny citizens the right to vote

I am writing about the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to keep citizens from voting in Iowa. When someone has been prosecuted for a crime and completed their sentence, they indeed are a returning citizen to their community. There is no reason to deny that person the right to participate in elections. We expect them to pay taxes and follow the laws like all citizens. How does it benefit society to keep a fellow citizen from voting?

I began working on this issue in 2004 with a group of amazing high school students at Metro High School in Cedar Rapids. We tried to encourage the legislature to narrow what an “infamous crime” constitutes so that Iowa could join the rest of the United States in allowing the right to vote for returning citizens (except for Florida and Kentucky). The legislature did not get this done and since then we have had ricocheting executive orders on this issue.

Currently, I work with returning citizens at Inside Out Re-entry Community. There are many barriers for people re-entering society after incarceration. It isn’t easy finding employment or a place to live. Inside Out helps with these challenges. However, if we want individuals to be productive and positive members of our community, we should do what we can to make them feel welcome. Voting is part of being a citizen. Let’s welcome back those who have served their sentence and open voting to returning citizens.

Mike Cervantes

Director of Inside Out Re-entry Community

Iowa City

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