Reynolds vows action on voting rights backlog before Iowa caucuses

Governor Kim Reynolds promised this week that 347 people who have asked her to restore their voting rights will have their applications reviewed in time for the Iowa caucuses on February 3.

“We’re not where we need to be” on processing those applications promptly, Reynolds acknowledged during a January 7 forum for statehouse reporters, organized by the Associated Press.

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Latest reform won't help vast majority of Iowans disenfranchised over felonies

On the same day Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear restored voting rights to some 140,000 constituents who previously committed nonviolent crimes, Governor Kim Reynolds rolled out an incremental step to make it easier for Iowans to regain their voting rights after completing a felony sentence.

It was the fourth time the application process has been simplified in nearly nine years since Governor Terry Branstad restored Iowa’s lifetime ban on voting after a felony conviction.

Although the new policy may marginally increase the number of Iowans who can cast a ballot in 2020, it will leave tens of thousands of Iowans unable to vote for years. It’s not clear the governor’s office will be able to process all of the new applications in time for next year’s general election.

Reynolds could mostly solve this problem in a day. She clings to an unconvincing rationale for not doing so.

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Can Iowa fix flawed felon database before 2020 election?

Ten months after the Des Moines Register revealed that “Iowa’s flawed felon list has been disqualifying legitimate voters for years,” and five months after voting rights advocates warned that “Iowa’s voter list maintenance practices are arbitrary and unlawful,” Secretary of State Paul Pate announced an ambitious plan to clean up the felon database.

“The new steps to ensure the system’s accuracy include a manual review of all 90,000 files,” a November 20 news release announced. The goal is to complete the task before next year’s general election.

Several unanswered questions remain about the plan.

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Is Iowa's secretary of state fully complying with court ruling on voter law?

The State of Iowa has revised the official absentee ballot request form in light of a court ruling that invalidated some sections of Iowa election law. However, the new form still lists a voter ID number as a required field, despite a court order permanently enjoining Secretary of State Paul Pate from “indicating that such information is ‘required.’”

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When Ruth Corwin Grassley voted a day after the 19th Amendment took effect

Ninety-nine years ago this week, U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified that the required three-quarters of states had ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote nationwide. The date of his pronouncement, August 26, is now celebrated as Women’s Equality Day, even though suffrage was limited to white women in parts of the country for many years after 1920.

One day after the Nineteenth Amendment took effect, 77 women were among 214 residents of Black Hawk and Grundy counties who cast ballots in a local referendum on school consolidation. One of the first women to exercise their right to vote in that election was Ruth Corwin Grassley, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s mother.

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