Dozens of felons have cast ballots in recent Iowa elections in violation of state law, yet just a handful have been prosecuted, reports the Des Moines Register. Two of those who were charged say they were misled by election officials who they said urged them to vote. Since the November 2016 presidential election, at least 114 voters identified by the state as felons have cast provisional ballots in 13 counties. At least 27 are no longer on Iowa’s felon list, most because the state had put them there mistakenly. Most of the remaining 87 have not been prosecuted for casting illegal ballots, which Iowa law says is punishable by up to five years in prison. Only five have been charged, and two have been convicted.
Prosecutors say they are handcuffed by a state law that requires them to prove that felons intentionally broke the law when they voted or attempted to vote. “There’s a lot of overall confusion (not only) by the general public but by felons specifically about whether or not they’re eligible to vote,” said Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds. County officials did not pursue charges against two felon voters whose ballots were rejected. The newspaper said its findings raise questions about Iowa’s felon voting ban, one of the nation’s most restrictive, and the accuracy and fairness of the process used to enforce it. Iowa permanently bars felons from voting unless they successfully petition the governor or president to restore their rights. Gov. Kim Reynolds backs a constitutional amendment to restore felons’ voting rights automatically when they complete their sentences.