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BLM Keeps Up Pressure on Order to Restore Voting Rights

In 2005, Iowa joined many other states in restoring the voting rights of people with past felony convictions, but that order was later rescinded. (Adobe Stock)
In 2005, Iowa joined many other states in restoring the voting rights of people with past felony convictions, but that order was later rescinded. (Adobe Stock)
July 1, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The group Black Lives Matter says it won't stop pressing Iowa's governor to sign an executive order restoring voting rights for people with past felony convictions. Nearly two weeks after saying she would take action, some worry the governor is reconsidering.

Black Lives Matter Des Moines has been trying to hold demonstrations at Reynolds' daily appearances, in hopes of getting her attention.

BLM organizer Jaylen Cavil said Reynolds needs to act soon with the November election on the horizon.

"We're not going to have enough time for these folks who have been disenfranchised - some folks for decades - to get them registered to vote, to be engaged in the process," he said.

Iowa is the only state left in the country to impose a lifetime ban on voting for people with felony convictions, only allowing individual appeals to the governor's office. The law affects nearly 60,000 Iowans, including nearly one in 10 African-American adults. Reynolds' office did not reply to a request for comment before deadline.

Cavil said they're also concerned that the longer it takes, the chances become greater that Reynolds will sign a "watered-down" order.

"We don't want anything to be in there that says 'Oh, folks need to pay restitution,'" he said. "We're also concerned that she's going to have some sort exceptions in there, like for, say, people who committed violent crimes."

Reynolds previously has pushed state lawmakers to amend the Iowa Constitution to restore voting rights for felons, but Senate Republicans have thwarted the efforts. The governor did support a plan in the Legislature that would have set conditions, but it didn't get final approval from lawmakers before the recent session ended.

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Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA