Government

Reynolds may be willing to restore felons' voting privileges

Governor says issue may be part of criminal justice reforms

Cliff Jette/The Gazette

Governor Kim Reynolds campaigns at Aurora Coffee Co. in Marion on Saturday, February 3, 2018.
Cliff Jette/The Gazette Governor Kim Reynolds campaigns at Aurora Coffee Co. in Marion on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signaled Tuesday she may be open to making it easier for felons to have their voting privileges restored upon completion of their sentences.

Iowa is one of only two states, along with Kentucky, that permanently rescinds a felon’s voting privileges, according to the Brennan Center of Justice.

Reynolds on Tuesday declined to offer specifics about any plan, saying she plans to address the topic in her condition of the state address in January.

But she said her administration is considering criminal justice reforms and suggested felons’ voting privileges could be a part of that package.

“We’re going to sit down, and we’re going to have a conversation, talk about that,” Reynolds said during her weekly meeting with reporters. “We’re working on it, and I’m going to lay all of that out in my condition of the state.”

In Iowa, felons must complete a survey and show payment of legal fees before their voting privileges can be restored.

More than 52,000 Iowans would gain voting privileges if the state changes how it handles the issue, according to a report from The Sentencing Project, which advocates for criminal justice reform.

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In 36 states and the District of Columbia, felons’ voting privileges are restored automatically after completion of their sentence or their sentence plus parole and probation.

In 12 states, including Iowa, voting privileges can be restored if a felon completes a petition process. In two states, felons never lose their voting privileges, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Florida voters in the Nov. 6 election agreed to amend the state Constitution to restore voting privileges to residents who have completed sentences for felony convictions.

“That’s why we’re going to take a look at it,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said she recently was at one of her grandchildren’s sporting events when a felon, who’d recently had his voting privileges restored, thanked her for her administration calling him to let him know he could now vote.

“He said, ‘I can’t even begin to tell you the dignity that I felt because I had gotten my life back, to be able to go in and vote,’ ” Reynolds said.

l Comments: (515) 422-9061; erin.murphy@lee.net

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