Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, citing “the beauty of grace” and second chances, is proposing a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to convicted felons, the Des Moines Register reports.
“There are few things as powerful as the joy of someone who got a second chance and found their purpose,” Reynolds said in an address Tuesday to the legislature. The felon voting proposal, if approved, would overturn a ban on felon voting that former Gov. Terry Branstad enacted through executive order in 2011.
Reynolds called for other changes to Iowa’s criminal justice system, including legislation protecting employers from lawsuits if they hire Iowans with criminal records, a constitutional amendment enshrining victims’ rights into the state’s constitution, and a new home-building program to provide training to inmates to build homes for low-income Iowans.
“I’m a recipient of second chances,” Reynolds said recently, alluding to past drunken driving arrests and her battle with alcohol addiction. “I believe that people make mistakes and there’s opportunities to change, and that needs to be recognized.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures says 38 states and Washington, D.C., automatically restore the voting rights of convicted felons or, as in Maine and Vermont, never take them away.
Iowa has one of the nation’s most restrictive bans on felon voting, permanently barring them from voting unless they successfully petition the governor to restore their rights.
Only Kentucky shares a similar lifetime ban after Floridians voted in November to lift their state’s ban. More than 1.4 million Floridians with felony convictions were set to register as voters this month.
A Register investigation found that the system Iowa uses to prevent felons from voting has flaws that have resulted in some Iowans wrongfully being denied their constitutional right to vote.
Additional reading: 2018 Called High Point in Restoring Rights to Individuals with Criminal Records.