August 23, 2014

Governor releases streamlined plan for felons to get voting rights back

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad today announced a new streamlined process for felons to get their voting rights back.

Governor Branstad in 2011 nullified an executive order that former Governor Tom Vilsack put in place in 2005 that automatically restored voting rights to felons who had completed their parole and been released from prison.

A spokesman for Governor Branstad said he felt it was important that restitution be paid to victims before felons could apply to get their voting rights back. The issue impacts some 13,000 Iowans, and since 2011, only 20 felons have completed the paperwork to get those rights back.

Critics say the process is cumbersome, as applicants must submit a current credit report, pay 15 dollars to get their own criminal history report and provide the address of the judge who sentenced them to prison.

A news release from the governor’s office says the updated process will include simplified instructions, clarification on the policy verifying restitution payment, removes the credit history check requirement and provides a more detailed checklist of materials applicants must complete with their application.

The Iowa ACLU released a statement saying the governor’s announcement was “good news.” It said the group would continue to advocate for automatic restoration of voting rights after a person completes their term of imprisonment.

The ACLU says “Felon disenfranchisement policies have dramatically unfair racial impacts, affecting a disparately high percentage of African Americans and other minorities in the state.”