Government

Gov. Kim Reynolds promises felon voting rights before election

She'll use an executive order but still pursue amending state constitution

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday talks about the executive order she plans to issue that will restore the voting right
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday talks about the executive order she plans to issue that will restore the voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences and paid certain fines and fees. (Charlie Niebergall/Associated Press)

DES MOINES — With Black Lives Matter protesters chanting just outside the conference room, Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday said her executive order to automatically restore voting rights to felons who complete their sentences will be done in time for this fall’s election.

During her news conference at the Iowa Capitol, Reynolds said she does not have a specific timeline, but pledged it will be done before the Nov. 3 general election.

“I’ve made the commitment. And I think we’ll get it done,” Reynolds said. “But I think it’s really important that we do it right, and that we get the verbiage right — because that’s the problem with executive orders. Whoever’s sitting in my chair, it changes based on who’s there next.

“So the more we can think about some of those things, and some of the things that we need to do to make sure that we’re doing it appropriately, it’s really important to me.”

Iowa is the only state that requires felons to petition the governor to have their voting rights restored upon completion of their sentence.

Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2005 issued an executive order that automatically restored felons’ voting rights upon completion of their sentences. But Republican Gov. Terry Branstad in 2010 reversed that order, restoring the current application process.

Reynolds, a Republican and Branstad’s former lieutenant and successor, has called for amending the state’s constitution to automatically restore felons’ voting rights after their sentences and after the payment of fines and fees.

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But legislation to start the multiple-years process of amending the state constitution stalled during the legislative session that just ended.

Reynolds said she still hopes for the more permanent solution of a constitutional amendment, but, in the meantime, plans the executive order so more Iowans can vote in this fall’s election.

“I’m still going to continue next year to advocate for a constitutional amendment because I believe that that’s the right thing to do,” Reynolds said.

“We have an important election coming up, and so I have made it clear that I will do an executive order, and it will be done in a timely manner so that people have an opportunity to participate in this election.”

Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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