On the floor of the Iowa Senate waits Senate File 2203, a bill that would reinstate the voting rights of ex-felons automatically after they finish serving their criminal sentences. Another version of the bill, Senate File 127, has already been killed by the Senate. “There is a provision in the state constitution that’s been interpreted to disqualify felons from voting,” Sen. David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan) explained of the current rules in place on ex-felon voting rights. “And a process has been set up subsequently that allowed ex-felons to apply to have their voting rights restored by the governor.” During his term as governor, Tom Vilsack issued an executive order during his term that “rubber stamped” the application process to have voting rights reinstated. “Vilsack’s executive order rubber stamped without giving consideration to whether the individuals paid their restitution,” Johnson said.
An executive order from Gov. Terry Branstad nulled all of the applications approved by Vilsack, and returned the process to a case-by-case approval process.
“Senate Republicans are opposed to this bill, what we have is a good practice,” Johnson said. “We need to put the responsibility on the convicted to get their voting rights back.”
Johnson said he did not believe that the ex-felon voting rights bill would pass in the House if it was passed by the Senate. The Senate is still waiting to see if the bill will come up for debate.