Democrats are raising concerns about the process Governor Branstad uses to evaluate felons who want their voting privileges restored.
In 2005, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack initiated a system that automatically restored voting rights to convicted felons who had completed their parole. Branstad issued an executive order when he retook the governor’s office in January of 2011 that requires felons who’ve done their time to submit a credit report, a criminal history report and fill out a form that requires information like the address of the judge who handled their case. They also have to prove all court fines have been paid.
Senator Gene Fraise, a Democrat from Fort Madison, is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a critic of the process.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Fraise says.
Iowa is one of only four states which require felons who’ve done their time and been released from state supervision to make a formal appeal to the governor to get their voting rights restored. Fraise says in the past year and a half, only a handful of the thousands of Iowans who’ve exited the criminal justice system have successfully negotiated the complicated Branstad now requires.
“I don’t know where this guy’s coming from,” Fraise says of Branstad, “but he’s coming off the wall on a lot of this stuff.”
Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky issued a written statement this week, accusing Branstad of trying to suppress voter participation.
Supporters of Branstad’s policy say it ensures felons have paid their debts to society, including restitution to their victims.