I support changing Iowa law regarding the right of felons to vote.
Only Iowa and Kentucky permanently ban all felons from voting unless the governor or president intervenes. Iowa is currently one of 12 states requiring further action in addition to sentence completion for restoration of voting rights. This means Iowa trails 38 other states on restoration of voting rights. Two states, Maine and Vermont, never rescind a person’s right to vote. Fifteen out of the 38 grant automatic restoration after release, while 21 grant automatic restoration after completing parole and/or probation.
In 2011, Gov. Terry Branstad reversed Gov. Tom Vilsack’s 2005 executive order to restore voting rights after sentence completion. This meant felons had to request restoration through the governor’s office. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 17 people had their rights restored in 2015. Rescinding the executive order has created confusion.
As the federal government tackles justice reform, Iowa is not allowing felons who have completed their sentences to vote. At the same time, we are disenfrachinging voters who were never convicted of a felony, but accidentally appeared on the felon list.
Iowa, until now, has been a leader on citizens’ rights. It’s time the Legislature tackles this issue. Iowa should follow the 38 states and grant the right to vote on the completion of a sentence or the completion of a sentence and parole or probation. This would be a great step toward justice reform and allowing citizens to integrate back into the community.
Johnson County Auditor