Changes could be coming for how felons go about restoring their voting rights in Iowa. Currently, felons must petition the governor if they want their voting rights restored after their sentences are served.
Now, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds wants to automatically restore the voting rights of felons through a constitutional amendment.
James Urso tells 6 news that he was 18-years-old the first time he cast a ballot in the state of Iowa. “I thought it was great. I thought that I had a voice. Perhaps maybe the vote would make a change or maybe create a change.”
Things did change for James when he went to prison for three years for committing a white collar crime. When he was released he lost his right to vote. “It was like I was still in prison. Still feels like I’m being penalized for a poor choice that I made and I don’t think that’s fair.”
Governor Reynolds says she wants to give non-violent felons the right to vote under a constitutional amendment, which would take the decision away from the governor. “I believe Iowans recognize the power of redemption so let’s put this issue in their hands.”
Urso said, “I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to do that because we’re working, we’re paying taxes, we’re paying our bills, most of us, I guess. So why can’t we go back to doing that?”
But there are some in the Iowa legislature, like House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, who say the governor’s proposal is not a slam dunk. “This is something we’ll take a very thoughtful look at because I want to understand everything that’s involved with that.”
Tens of thousands of felons could return to the polls if Iowans decide to vote against the ban that keeps felons away from the polls. A change in Iowa’s constitution must be approved by two consecutive Iowa General Assemblies and then the Iowa voters, which means it could be 2020 before the measure appears on the ballot.
Iowa and Kentucky are the only two states that require felons to petition the governor if they want to have their voting rights restored after their sentences are complete.