About 13,000 Iowans who would have been eligible to vote four years ago are barred from voting today. In 2005, Governor Tom Vilsack issued an executive order that automatically restored voting rights to felons who’d been released from prison and had completed their parole, but in 2011 Governor Terry Branstad nullified that.
Tim Albrecht is a spokesman for Branstad. “The governor believes that if you commit a crime that there needs to be sufficient punishment and one of the ways to do that is to remove the voting rights,” Albrecht says.
“Once restitution is paid to the victims, then they can apply to get their voting rights back.” Albrecht says since 2011, only 20 felons have completed the paperwork required to get their voting rights restored. 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.
Albrecht says the governor’s legal staff has been “expediting” applications. “Anybody that applied to get their voting rights back has been approved for this election,” Albrecht says.
Iowa is one of only four states that does not automatically restore voting rights to felons who’ve done their time.