Iowa could be the next state to amend its constitution and restore voting rights to tens of thousands of ex-felons

  • Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa proposed Tuesday that the state amend its constitution to remove its lifetime voting ban on people with felony convictions.
  • The amendment could restore voting rights to 52,000 Iowans.
  • Florida residents voted on a similar constitutional amendment last year, and if Iowa follows suit, only two US states will have lifetime voting bans for all felons.

Iowa could soon do away with its practice of permanently revoking the voting rights of people convicted of felonies – a move that would leave just two US states with lifetime voting bans for all felons.

The state’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, proposed in her Condition of the State address on Tuesday that the state amend its constitution to remove lifetime voting bans, as Florida residents voted to do during last year’s midterm elections.

Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia are the only three states with lifetime voting bans that can be overturned only through individual clemencies from governors. Virginia’s governor, however, restores those rights individually to all who complete the terms of their sentence.

A constitutional amendment in Iowa could restore voting rights to an estimated 52,000 Iowans, according to The Des Moines Register.

“Our founders gave us a process to amend the constitution, should the passage of time change our view,” Reynolds said Tuesday. “Let’s begin that process now. I believe Iowans recognise the power of redemption – let’s put this issue in their hands.”

Read more: Floridians with felony convictions are beginning to register to vote after the state restored voting rights to 1.5 million people

Reynolds has previously cited her own brushes with the criminal-justice system, telling local media that she is a “recipient of second chances.”

Reynolds was arrested twice, in 1999 and 2000, on drunken-driving charges. She has been open about her alcoholism and lauded her community for supporting her through her treatment.

Reynolds said in her Condition of the State remarks on Tuesday that she recently met an Iowan whose voting rights she had restored through clemency and who told her how much the gesture meant to him.

“When he stepped into the voting booth, he felt a dignity that had been missing, even after leaving prison,” Reynolds said. “I don’t think this man and others like him who have completed their sentences should have to wait for my say, or any future governor’s say, before they get that dignity back.”

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