Governor Tom Vilsack is granting voting rights to felons who’ve been released from prison and have completed the conditions of their parole. Vilsack announced Friday afternoon that he plans to issue an executive order to accomplish that goal.”We’re here today to talk about fundamental fairness. We’re here today to talk about justice. We’re here, talking about our state of Iowa joining the vast majority of states that (understand) a simple fact and that is that when you’ve paid your debt to society, you need to be reconnected and reengaged in society,” Vilsack said. Just five states do not immediately grant voting rights to “those who’ve paid their debt to society” according to Vilsack. The governor plans to issue his executive order on July 4th. Vilsack says it will symbolize an “Independence Day, of sorts” for those who will get their voting rights back. After July 4th, convicted felons who’re done with their parole will be able to register to vote. It also means that for every month hereafter, a list of people who’ve completed their parole will be submitted to Vilsack, and he’ll grant the people on the list their voting rights. He expects as many as six-hundred people to get their voting rights back each month. “This action that we take is not going to be a pardon. It doesn’t wipe away the arrest (or) the criminal conviction. It doesn’t restore gun rights. It doesn’t eliminate any financial obligation that an individual may owe to a victim,” Vilsack says. “But it does allow individuals to cast a vote.” Deb Breuklander of Des Moines has experienced what many convicted felons will soon experience after July 4th. She was released from prison and completed her parole in February. She applied to Vilsack to get her voting rights back. On Wednesday, she got a letter telling her Vilsack had granted her request to get her voting rights back. “I was telling some of my coworkers…I was really happy the day I was discharged off of parole, but I was even happier the day I got that paper with the gold seal that said I am one of you guys now,” Breuklander says. The top Republican in the legislature criticizes Vilsack’s move. He calls it a mixed signal on crime. “This is a year where we passed, and the governor signed, the toughest anti-meth and sexual predator legislation in the country. We know these laws are working, and we should not reverse our course by restoring felon rights with the stroke of a pen,” Rants says.
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