As a state, Iowa should want convicted felons to become rehabilitated, productive members of society after they have met the sentences handed down for their crimes and should take reasonable steps to assist them.
To this end, we support what appears to be Gov. Kim Reynolds' open-minded position on the issue of voting rights for felons.
Last week, Reynolds hinted that easing restoration of felon voting rights may be part of a package of criminal justice reform proposals in her January Condition of the State address.
"We're going to sit down and we're going to have a conversation, talk about that," Reynolds told reporters. "We're working on it, and I'm going to lay all of that out in my Condition of the State."
Approaches taken by individual states on restoration of voting rights for felons "vary tremendously," according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"It has been common practice in the United States to make felons ineligible to vote, in some cases permanently," according to NCSL. "Over the last few decades, the general trend has been toward reinstating the right to vote at some point, although this is a state-by-state policy choice."
NCSL reports the following: In two states, Maine and Vermont, felons do not lose the right to vote. In 12 states, including Iowa, felons lose their voting rights indefinitely for some crimes, or require a governor’s pardon in order for the right to vote to be restored, or face an additional waiting period after completion of sentence (including parole and/or probation) before voting rights are restored.
In 36 states, the voting rights of convicted felons are restored automatically after completion of their sentence or completion of their sentence plus parole and/or probation. Our preference is for Iowa to move toward this approach.
We hope to hear more details from Reynolds about this issue in her January speech and hope study, debate and action within the Legislature follows.