Outreach Limitations Impact Voting for Past Felons in IA
Friday, November 6, 2020
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Prior to the November election, Iowans with past felony convictions were given the opportunity to vote. However, only a small number registered, and advocates point to a short timeframe, while hoping for more outreach in future elections.
Late this summer, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an order that restored the voting rights of more than 30,000 people who had completed their sentences. Results are incomplete, but early data show only 3,300 registered.
State Representative-elect Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, was among those trying to raise awareness. She said timing was a factor, because the order was signed in August.
But she also wondered if the Secretary of State and other agencies could have done a more targeted outreach.
"My sense is that there was just not a significant effort to really make people's rights known," said Bohannan. "And that it came pretty late in the game to really try to do something for this election."
She said mailings sent out were not specific enough and might not have reached all those eligible because it's possible their address wasn't current.
However, the Secretary of State's office said it did heavy media promotion, while making numerous resources available - including a specific website for residents who fall under this category.
Michelle Heinz is executive director of the Johnson County group Inside Out Re-Entry Community, which serves those returning to society after incarceration.
She said most of the people they assist aren't eligible because they're still on parole. But she said when notifying those who did qualify, there was some confusion.
"Very few actually knew that they were eligible and understood the full eligibility if they were aware of it," said Heinz. "So, there seemed to be kind of an information disconnect."
Heinz added that most people who are eligible are no longer served by groups like hers, and are focused on their daily lives. She suggested that's where the state can step in by getting the message out in a broader way.
Bohannan added there can't be assumptions that everyone who qualifies will go to the website. She said there are other ways to establish a broader outreach.
"Working with the Department of Corrections to try to see whether we have any current contact information for folks," said Bohannan.
She said that could be beneficial in making more connections through the mail.
The corrections department did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.
Meanwhile, Bohannan said she is hopeful advocacy groups will have more time for coordinated outreach when municipal elections are held next year.
get more stories like this via email
SALT LAKE CITY -- In the push toward carbon-free energy production, some cities in Utah and nearby states are considering a new type of nuclear …
Health and Wellness
TAMPA, Fla. -- Move United's USA Wheelchair Football League is expanding from four cities to nine, including Tampa, to give athletes with …
CRAIG, Colo. -- What would it look like if one in four households in the country was solar-powered? A new report from the "30 Million Solar Homes" …
Health and Wellness
DES MOINES, Iowa -- People across the Midwest, including Iowans, have dealt with a series of heat waves this summer. Health experts say hotter …
NEW YORK -- Over 10,000 New York and New Jersey front-line airport workers will get health insurance as part of new contract negotiations that come at…
BOSTON -- A new survey finds widespread public support up and down the East Coast for protecting right whales from getting tangled up in fishing gear…
CARSON CITY, Nev. - A bill just introduced in the U.S, Senate would help thousands of species stay off the Endangered Species List - including …
Health and Wellness
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Amid mixed national messaging on COVID-19 and masks, the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends students …