[Bleeding Heartland Logo]

Bleeding Heartland is a community blog about Iowa politics: campaigns and elections, state government, social and environmental issues. Bleeding Heartland also weighs in on presidential policies and campaigns, federal legislation and what the Iowans in Congress are up to. Join our community, post your thoughts as comments or diaries, help keep our leaders honest and hold them accountable.
- desmoinesdem
- Iowa 2012 election coverage
- Who's who in the Iowa House for 2015
- Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2015
- Iowa wildflowers
2014 Election Coverage
- Absentee ballot numbers
- IA-Sen
- IA-Gov
- IA-01
- IA-02
- IA-03
- IA-04
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Secretary of State
- State Auditor
- Iowa Senate overview
- Iowa House overview
- Senate district 5
- Senate district 7
- Senate district 9
- Senate district 12
- Senate district 13
- Senate district 15
- Senate district 17
- Senate district 27
- Senate district 29
- Senate district 39
- Senate district 41
- Senate district 47
- Senate district 49
- House district 8
- House district 15
- House district 25
- House district 26
- House district 28
- House district 30
- House district 33 (2013)
- House district 40
- House district 51
- House district 60
- House district 63
- House district 65
- House district 68
- House district 73
- House district 82
- House district 91
- House district 92
- House district 95
- House district 99

Advanced Search

Paid Advertising

Bleeding Heartland
It's what plants crave.

NAACP leaders talk voting rights, race disparity with Branstad

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:40:10 AM CST

Leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People urged Governor Terry Branstad yesterday to change Iowa's extreme restrictions on voting rights for ex-felons and to address the huge race disparity in Iowa incarceration rates.
desmoinesdem :: NAACP leaders talk voting rights, race disparity with Branstad
Since Branstad published an executive order disenfranchising ex-felons on his first day back in office in 2011, only a handful of Iowans have regained their right to vote after completing prison sentences. Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson reported yesterday,

About 13,000 Iowans who would have been eligible to vote four years ago were barred from voting in this year's election. Iowa is one of only four states that do not automatically restore voting rights to felons who've done their time.

Most people who have been imprisoned have pressing concerns like securing a job and a place to live. They are unlikely to have the resources to fill out Iowa's lengthy and complicated application to get back their voting rights. One man couldn't navigate the process even after paying an attorney $500 to help. The Iowa Justice Reform Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa have been trying to address this issue, but the NAACP delegation was able to get a meeting with the governor and some attention from journalists.

The Iowa and national NAACP leaders appealed to Branstad's sense of fairness and justice.

"Prison is supposed to be about rehabilitating people," says Dedric Doolin, president of the Cedar Rapids branch of the NAACP, "and how do you rehabilitate somebody if you continue to have them marked as a prisoner for the rest of their life?" [...]

"The litany of things that (Branstad) has on his list covers so many areas that it's near impossible for the average citizen, whether they're in prison or not, to respond to the issues that they're asking for in the application," says Arnold Woods, Jr. of Des Moines, president of the Iowa/Nebraska chapter of the NAACP.

But Woods says Branstad indicated one change in the process - that a felon need only be current in paying restitution rather than requiring them to pay it all before they can apply to get their voting rights back.

Announcing the new policy in January 2011, Branstad clearly stated that ex-felons must pay full court costs and restitution (if their felony crime involved a victim) before voting rights can be restored. Yesterday the governor's staff airbrushed that history:

The governor's office, meanwhile said in a statement Monday afternoon that its position has always been that voting rights could be restored if felons were current on their restitution payments.

There have been no applications submitted by felons who were merely current on such payments since the governor signed the executive order, however.

Gee, I wonder why there have been "no applications submitted by felons who were merely current on such payments." Maybe it's because it says near the beginning of Iowa's 31-question "Streamlined Application for Restoration of Citizenship Rights":

You must pay all court fines, restitution, and court costs before you apply. You must include documentation verifying payment of costs, fines, and restitution.

Branstad defended his policy as protecting "society."

The governor told the group he is willing to look at being fair to felons by streamlining the process, although he didn't pledge any specifics. Branstad does believe he had to think of others, too. He said, 'We also think it's fair to society that when somebody commits a crime like that, that they have to earn their rights by having completed the sentence and the requirements of the sentence."

It hardly seems fair to block more than 99 percent of Iowa felons from voting for the rest of their lives. The U.S. banned poll taxes decades ago, because basic civil rights should not be contingent on one's financial means. During the last 15 years, 23 states have expanded voter eligibility for felons.

Branstad's policy disproportionately affects African-Americans, who are much more likely than Caucasians to be charged with felonies and sent to prison:  

On prison disparities, the governor encouraged the group to work with the attorney general and county attorneys, who are responsible for charging people accused of crimes and bringing cases to trial.

In its press conference the NAACP, noted that one in 13 black Iowans are incarcerated, compared to one in 110 Caucasians - placing the among the highest in the country when it comes to the percentage of black residents in prison.

"We're first in the nation in the percentage of incarcerated African Americans," Woods said. "We think that is an issue that needs to be dealt with. The NAACP is anxious to get resolution to this issue."

A 2007 study by the Sentencing Project showed that "blacks in Iowa are imprisoned at 13.6 times the white rate in Iowa, the widest disparity in the nation." Former Governor Chet Culver's administration should have done more to address this problem. By urging the NAACP to take their complaints to county attorneys and Attorney General Tom Miller, Branstad signaled yesterday that he does not plan to lead on the issue.

Tags: , , , , , , (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email
Tweet This!


Make a New Account



Forget your username or password?

Iowa Liberal Blogs
- Blog For Iowa
- Iowa .Gif-t Shop
- Iowa Independent (archive)
- Iowa Policy Points
- Iowa Starting Line
- Iowans for a Future That Doesn't Suck
- John Deeth
Iowa Conservative Blogs
- Hawkeye GOP
- The Bean Walker
- Caffeinated Thoughts
- The Conservative Reader: Iowa
- The Iowa Republican
Journalists' blogs and research
- 24-Hour Dorman
- Cedar Rapids Gazette government page
- Iowa Fiscal Partnership
- Iowa Policy Project
- Iowa Politics Insider
- Iowa Watchdog.org
- On Brief: Iowa's Appellate Blog
- On the Campaign Trail with Ed Tibbetts
- Politically Speaking
- Price of Politics, etc.
- O.Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa
Iowa Democrats
- Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
- Iowa Democratic Party
- Iowa House Democrats
- Iowa Senate Democrats

Powered by: SoapBlox