Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has made Iowa one of the most difficult states in the nation for felons to vote, with an executive order he issued last year already having disenfranchised thousands of people, a review by The Associated Press shows. On the day he took office, Branstad signed an order reversing a six-year policy started under Democrat Tom Vilsack in which felons automatically regained their voting rights once they were discharged from state supervision. The move flew in the face of a nationwide trend to make voting easier for felons, making Iowa one of four states where felons must apply to the governor to have voting rights restored. Branstad’s new process requires applicants to submit a credit report, a provision critics call inappropriate and unique among states. Since then, 8,000 felons in Iowa have finished their prison sentences or been released from community supervision, but less than a dozen have successfully navigated the process of applying to get their citizenship rights back, according to public records obtained by the AP. Branstad’s office has denied a handful of others because of incomplete paperwork or unpaid court costs.
“Wow — that seems pretty low,” said Rita Bettis, lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which was posting a how-to guide online Sunday to help felons through a process that has confused some seasoned elections officials. Bettis said felons struggling to re-enter society may be less interested in voting than the general population because they have other concerns, but making it easier for them to do so is good public policy.
Henry Straight, who wants to serve on the town council in the tiny western Iowa community of Arthur, is among those whose paperwork wasn’t complete. Straight can’t vote or hold office because as a teenager in Wisconsin in the 1980s, he was convicted of stealing a pop machine and fleeing while on bond.
Full Article: APNewsBreak: Few Iowa felons pursue voting rights | Fox News.