Bobby Kaufman

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports a House committee has unanimously voted to jump-start the process of restoring felon voting rights for the 2020 election.

In 2005, then-Governor Tom Vilsack issued an executive order that automatically restored voting rights when paroled felons complete their sentences. Governor Terry Branstad rescinded that policy in 2011.

Last night, the House State Government Committee voted to add the language from Vilsack’s order to an election-related bill. Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann, the chairman of the committee, told The Gazette it’s a new pathway for Iowa to stop being the only state in the country that requires released felons to get approval from the governor before they may vote.

Last year, Governor Kim Reynolds called on the legislature to permanently resolve the matter and draft a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore felon voting rights. Her fellow Republicans in the House took steps during the 2019 legislative session to do so, but the Republican-led Senate has not.

This week, a Senate committee voted to set up a system that would kick in if a constitutional amendment is approved by Iowans. It would require felons to pay the full amount of court-ordered victim restitution before they may vote. It also would forever bar felons convicted of murder, manslaughter and certain sex crimes from voting.