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IA Advocates Happy for Voting-Rights Order, But Want More Action

Through various executive orders over the past 15 years, Iowa has seen several reversals of voting rights for people with past felony convictions. (Adobe Stock)
Through various executive orders over the past 15 years, Iowa has seen several reversals of voting rights for people with past felony convictions. (Adobe Stock)
August 6, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa no longer is the last state to prohibit anyone with a past felony conviction from voting, after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an order restoring those rights. But advocates for this group of voters feel it doesn't go far enough.

The executive order follows up on a promise Reynolds made earlier this year. It will allow tens of thousands of qualifying individuals to register to vote this November.

Black Lives Matter Des Moines was one of the groups pressuring Reynolds to take action. Organizer Jaylen Cavil said it's about time.

"It's been over 50 days since she told us she would do this, and we've been waiting, pushing every single day, waiting for any type of sign," Cavil said. "So, to see this, I guess I'm somewhat relieved. That day has finally come that she's actually followed through with her commitment."

But Cavil and other advocates say the order is watered down because it still prevents those with certain past convictions, such as manslaughter, from having their rights restored. It also doesn't apply to those still on parole or probation. Reynolds said the Legislature should take up the issue in a more comprehensive way by seeking a constitutional amendment.

Those demanding action say they would like to see that as well, but worry it could take a long time. In the meantime, Veronica Fowler, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, said the executive order hopefully will bring more fairness when it comes to democracy.

"People of color are disproportionately incarcerated and arrested and convicted of crimes," Fowler said. "So, this helps move us forward in making our state a more equitable, just place."

Advocates were happy to see it does not include any provisions that require restitution. Black Lives Matter organizers said they have a lot of work ahead of them to try to help those who qualify under the order to get them into the voter registration system before November.


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

Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA