Bill restoring felon voting rights advances in Iowa Legislature


Ben Allan Smith

The Capitol building in Des Moines is pictured on Saturday, April 29, 2018.

Sarah Watson, Politics Editor

The Iowa House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday to amend the Iowa Constitution to allow felons who have fulfilled their sentence to vote.

The proposal, which passed in time to advance beyond the March 8 funnel deadline, was one of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ key legislative priorities she outlined in her condition of the state address Jan. 15 to open the legislative session.

“Today’s unanimous vote by the House Judiciary Committee sends a strong message in favor of second chances and forgiveness for felons,” Reynolds said in a news release Wednesday. “It highlights the broad commitment of supporters for a constitutional amendment and another step forward to give Iowans a vote on this issue.”

The same resolution passed a Senate subcommittee Feb. 27.

It will be at least until 2020 to complete its path to amending the state constitution. The resolution will have to pass during the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions before being put to a statewide vote. If it makes it through all those steps, the amendment could only be reversed with another amendment.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 36 states, felons regain their voting rights after completing their sentence or only while incarcerated. Iowa is among 12 states whose felons lose their voting rights indefinitely and have to either petition the governor or the president to have their voting rights restored.