Thousands of Iowans with felony convictions who have served their sentences can participate in November’s presidential election under an executive order by Gov. Kim Reynolds restoring their voting rights, reports the Des Moines Register.
Reynolds, signing the order Wednesday, said, “Quite simply, 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.”
Iowa was the last state that still banned all people with felony convictions from voting — even after completion of their sentences — unless they applied individually to the governor to have their rights restored.
Reynolds has spent the past two years advocating for the legislature to pass a constitutional amendment that would restore voting rights but had resisted calls to sign an executive order, saying she believes a constitutional amendment is the best solution because it can’t be changed by a future governor.
This summer, after the Iowa Senate did not pass the amendment and after George Floyd’s death prompted advocacy on racial justice issues, she said she would sign the order.
Iowa’s felon voting ban was estimated to affect tens of thousands of people.
Iowa has discharged an average of 5,000 people with felony convictions annually in recent years. Anyone still serving a prison sentence for a felony conviction will not be able to vote. The order does not automatically grant voting rights to people convicted of murder and manslaughter. People convicted of serious sexual abuse crimes will need to complete special sentences before their voting rights are restored.
Those special sentences last either 10 years or for life, depending on the crime, meaning people convicted of the most serious sexual crimes will not automatically regain voting rights.
Last month, in a major blow to felon voting rights in Florida, the Supreme Court let stand an appeals court ruling that temporarily halts a judge’s order clearing the way for hundreds of thousands of people with felony records to register to vote.
Additional Reading: Felon Voting Rights by State, as of Jul 28 (National Conference of State Legislatures)