Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has made the state one of the nation’s most difficult for felons who want to vote, with an executive order he issued last year already having disenfranchised thousands of people, the Associated Press reports. On the day he took office, Republican Branstad signed an order reversing a six-year policy started under Democrat Tom Vilsack in which felons automatically regained their voting rights once they were discharged from state supervision.
The move flew in the face of a nationwide trend to make voting easier for felons, making Iowa one of four states where felons must apply to the governor to have voting rights restored. Branstad's process requires applicants to submit a credit report, a provision critics call inappropriate and unique among states. Since then, 8,000 felons in Iowa have finished their prison sentences or been released from community supervision, but fewer than a dozen have successfully navigated the process of applying to get their citizenship rights back, according to public records obtained by the AP.