Thousands of Iowans convicted of crimes are ineligible to vote today under a policy imposed by Gov. Terry Branstad, while others remain uncertain about whether they can cast ballots because of confusing state laws and guidance, the Associated Press reports. Branstad last year reversed a 2005 policy by former Gov. Tom Vilsack in which felons automatically regained their voting rights once they were discharged from state supervision. The change made Iowa one of four states where felons must apply to have voting rights restored, a lengthy process.
Applicants must submit documents showing they've fully paid fines and restitution, answer 31 detailed questions and request a $15 criminal history check and their credit report. Critics say many have been deterred from applying by the paperwork and because they don't want to submit their credit history to the governor's office to confirm that court debts are satisfied. Branstad hasn't budged, arguing that crime victims should receive restitution before voting rights are restored. Records from his office in response to an Associated Press request detail lingering roadblocks and confusion. Branstad has restored citizenship rights for fewer than 20 offenders since January 2011 of 13,000 who completed prison and parole sentences in that time frame.