Jun 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Iowa governor to issue executive order restoring voting rights to felons

Reynolds. Photo: Saul Loel/AFP via Getty Images

Reynolds. Photo: Saul Loel/AFP via Getty Images

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said on Tuesday she will issue an executive order before the November elections to restore voting rights for paroled felons in the state, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: Iowa has grappled in recent years with its restrictive laws for felon voting access. But recent protests over criminal justice reform have highlighted the lifelong barriers to democracy that some citizens face after finishing their criminal sentences.

  • The Sentencing Project reports that 2.2% of adults in Iowa in 2016 were ineligible to vote due to past convictions, including 9.8% of African Americans in the state overall.

What she's saying: Reynolds stated, "We’re working on that right now, sitting down with various groups, listening to what they think is important, what is contained in that executive order," adding, "and then I’ve got my legal team working on it."

Yes, but: History shows that enacting felon voting reform isn't a quick fix, and the details of Reynolds' proposal are unclear. Reynolds signed a GOP-backed bill earlier this month excluding felons from restoring voting rights who'd committed certain serious crimes, including homicide and sexual offenses.

  • The bill also required felons to pay back restitution before regaining their right to vote, which can take years.
  • It's unknown if these carveouts will persist in Reynolds' executive order.

Go deeper: The sticky web of felon voting laws

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