Staff Columnist

Iowa House moves to let the people vote on felony enfranchisement

Senate should advance amendment now, debate finer details later

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann talks on the floor as they debate SF220 in the House Chambers of the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018.
State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann talks on the floor as they debate SF220 in the House Chambers of the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018.

The Iowa House on Thursday approved a resolution for a constitutional amendment to automatically restore felons’ voting rights after they have completed their sentences. Gov. Kim Reynolds has made the amendment a key piece of her 2019 legislative priorities.

Some Republicans are skeptical about the proposal, questioning whether they should require financial restitution before voting rights are restored, or whether some classes of felons should be permanently excluded.

“I do not believe rapists, child molesters or murderers should ever have those rights back,” said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, the resolution’s floor manager.

Republicans’ reservations are worth debating, but no reason to hold up the amendment. For an amendment to be adopted, it must be approved by the Iowa Senate yet this year, and by the next general assembly and also a statewide voter referendum.

As that process moves forth, lawmakers still could consider additional restrictions by statute in the Iowa Code. Kaufmann indicated Thursday he would seek to do that next session.

“Let’s just give the people the chance to vote,” Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, said on the House floor Thursday.

l Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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