Iowa Governor Restores Voting Rights To Convicted Felons Who Have Completed Their Sentence

( Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has restored voting rights for many convicted felons.

Through executive order, Reynolds permitted people who have been convicted of felonies and completed their sentences to be automatically eligible to vote without having to individually petition the governor. People who are convicted of homicide are excluded from the order.

She said:

“When someone serves their sentence and pays the price our justice system has set for their crimes, they should have their right to vote restored automatically, plain and simple.

According to Reynolds, the state’s requirements on convicted felons create “the potential for uneven justice.” She continued:

“It means people who have served their sentence and are seeking to get their lives back on track permanently are prohibited from one of the most basic rights of citizenship.”

Iowa remained the only state in the nation that banned convicted felons from voting for their entire life. The only way they were able to restore their voting rights was if they formally appealed to the governor and received restoration. According to a report from The Hill, that ban affected roughly 10% of the black population in Iowa, and more than 60,000 residents in total.

Under Reynolds’ order, convicted felons must “complete any prison probation, or parole, or special sentence” before registering to vote. They must also pay all victim restitution that was required of them before they can vote.

Individuals who were convicted of felony murder, manslaughter and other felony homicides will still need to apply to have their voting rights restored.

Reynolds has petitioned lawmakers in the state to amend Iowa’s Constitution over the last two years. The governor would like to see the language of her executive order get codified into law.

In June, Reynolds said she’d signed an executive order that would change voting rights ahead of the November election. She was receiving immense pressure from activists with the Des Moines chapter of Black Lives Matter as well as other advocates in the state.

The state legislature heard a joint resolution this session that would have passed a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to some convicted felons. However, that resolution didn’t pass.

While Reynolds’ executive order does restore voting rights to many convicted felons in Iowa, the governor warned that it would only be a temporary fix.

In 2005, then-Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack restored voting rights to convicted felons who completed their sentences — similar to what Reynolds just did. That executive order was overturned by Republican Governor Terry Branstad in 2011, though.

That meant many convicted felons who had completed their sentences only had their voting rights restored for six years.

That’s why Reynolds will continue to press state lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment. She said:

“Let me be clear: an executive order is, at best, a temporary solution. It can be changed with a stroke of a pen by the next governor, which is not good enough. Something that is fundamentally right should not be based on benevolence of a single elected official.”