This (Monday) morning governor Tom Vilsack will sign an executive order reinstating voting rights for felons who’ve served their sentence. Democratic State Representative Wayne Ford says he introduced legislation four years ago that would have made that happen — but then decided only the governor had the authority to make that happen. Ford says he and other lawmakers, some of them Republican, asked Vilsack to sign an executive order. He calls it “ridiculous” to claim the governor’s only doing it to get more votes. If we’d been the first state to restore voting rights automatically, Ford says he’d have had reservations. But there were only five states in America left saying no, and he says Iowa’s ready to “join the 21st century.” He says the governor wasn’t thinking about benefiting from the declaration: “This is not Chicago, Illinois. This is not a state that has a lot of minorities.” And he says the governor wants a clean slate, a fair agenda for all people. Critics have said the governor hopes to create a big new voting bloc that’ll support him. Ford says if the largest block is independents, he can’t see how allowing a “small group of black and white people” to vote will change the next election. “Who’s going to change the next election is the large group of independents. It’s a bunch of political bull.” But Dows State Senator Stuart Iverson says felons should only regain their voting rights after they pay any court-ordered restitution, and should have to apply instead of getting their voting rights back automatically. Iverson says when someone’s committed a crime they should at least apply. “If any of us would lose our driver’s license, of course I think driving is a privilege, I mean you have to apply to get that back.” But Iverson isn’t worried that restoring their rights will create a large block of ex-offender voters.He figures “the vast majority of these folks probably didn’t vote before they committed a crime.” He notes 40-thousand have never applied to get their voting rights back, so they may not have thought it very important. Dows did say if the order doesn’t make offenders pay court-ordered restitution, it’ll be unfair to victims of crime.
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