Reynolds takes solid step toward expanding voting rights

Since Governor Terry Branstad signed an order in January 2011 to end automatic restoration of voting rights for Iowans who have completed felony sentences, only 328 affected people have regained their franchise: 206 through the end of Branstad’s tenure, and 122 since Governor Kim Reynolds became the state’s leader in May 2017. Yet an estimated 52,000 Iowans are ineligible to vote because of a criminal record.

A constitutional amendment moving through the state legislature would end the lifetime ban for most Iowans with felony convictions but could not take effect until 2023 at the earliest.

Today Reynolds announced several steps aimed at increasing the number of Iowans who could participate in the electoral process sooner than that.

Continue Reading...

Iowa House bill would ensure more absentee ballots are counted

The controversial 2018 election result in Iowa House district 55 has inspired two legislative proposals related to late-arriving absentee ballots. The House State Government Committee on March 5 advanced a bill designed to enfranchise more Iowans who voted by mail, with uniform rules for all 99 counties.

The leader of the Iowa Senate State Government Committee would move in the opposite direction, excluding all ballots that arrive after election day, even if envelope markings could prove voters mailed them on time. That approach appears to be a non-starter for House Republicans.

Continue Reading...

Disenfranchised Winneshiek County voters will never have their day in court

Envelopes containing 29 absentee ballots that Winneshiek County voters mailed on time will likely remain sealed forever. Time has run out for Democratic candidate Kayla Koether to sue over how Iowa House Republicans handled her contest of the 2018 election result in House district 55.

It is also too late for any disenfranchised voter to challenge a process that placed an administrative rule about mail barcodes above the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by Article II of Iowa’s constitution.

Continue Reading...

On acknowledging victims as we reform felon voting restrictions

Matt Chapman reports from the first legislative hearing on a constitutional amendment to change Iowa’s felon disenfranchisement system. -promoted by Laura Belin

Despite record low temperatures outside, the room was packed for the January 31 Iowa House Judiciary subcommittee meeting to consider House Study Bill 68, a constitutional amendment proposed by Governor Kim Reynolds.

Continue Reading...

Don't make more than 52,000 Iowans wait until 2023 to vote

Governor Kim Reynolds asked Iowa lawmakers today to start the process of amending the state constitution to remove the lifetime ban on voting by those who have committed “infamous crimes,” which under current law are defined as all felony offenses.

A constitutional amendment would be the best long-term fix for an unfair system that disproportionately affects racial minorities and those lacking the funds to navigate the restoration process. So the Iowa House and Senate should certainly heed the governor’s call. But it’s difficult to get a constitutional amendment through both chambers of the legislature, and the soonest an amendment could be enacted would be November 2022.

Reynolds and state lawmakers can and should take immediate steps to allow tens of thousands of Iowans to participate in this year’s local elections, the 2020 caucuses, and the primary and general elections of 2020 and 2022.

Continue Reading...
View More...