Felons to have easier time getting voting rights restored in Iowa

Branstad moves to streamline application process for felons

Receipt tape shows a record of the precinct cards loaded at the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center on Tuesday,
Receipt tape shows a record of the precinct cards loaded at the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Gov. Terry Branstad said Friday he has agreed to streamline the application for convicted felons who seek to have their voting rights restored.

In response to concerns raised last month by leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Branstad said the application now has simplified instructions, removes the requirement for a credit history check for the voting application, and provides a more detailed “checklist of materials” to help applicants turn in a completed application.

Also, the updated application at: provides contact information so applicants can obtain free resources to help them fill out the application and clarifies the policy for submitting documentation to show that an applicant has completed paying their fines, restitution and court costs or has been making consistent payments in good faith to that end.

“When an individual commits a felony, it is fair they earn their rights back by paying restitution to their victim, court costs, and fines,” Branstad said in a statement. “Iowa has a good and fair policy on the restoration of rights for convicted felons, and to automatically restore the right to vote without requiring the completion of the responsibilities associated with the criminal conviction would damage the balance between the rights and responsibility of citizens.”

At the start of his current term in January 2011, Branstad issued an executive order rescinding action in July 2005 by former Gov. Tom Vilsack that established a process that gave voting rights and right to hold public office to felons and those who committed aggravated misdemeanors. Branstad’s executive order required felons to complete a lengthy application process if they want their voting rights restored that includes requirements that they submit a current credit report, provide the address of the judge who sentenced them to prison and other information.

NAACP national and Iowa officials who discussed the issue with Branstad in mid-November called the requirements problematic and urged the governor to consider changes designed to make it easier for thousands of convicted Iowa felons to get their voting rights restored. They noted that only about a dozen felons have managed to get their voting rights restored under Branstad’s 2011 order.

NAACP officials were not immediately available for comment on Friday.“Too often victims are forgotten and it is important victims of felonies and serious crimes receive their restitution,” Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement announcing the administration’s changes. “The updated process for restoration of voting rights streamlines the process for applicants while ensuring we are mindful of the victims of the crime.”