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Iowa could be the next state to restore voting rights to former felons

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

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

Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia are currently the only three states left in the country with lifetime voting bans that can be overturned only through individual clemencies from the governors. Virginia’s governor, however, restores those rights individually to everyone who completes the terms of their sentences.

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. Let’s begin that process now,” Reynolds said Tuesday. “I believe Iowans recognize the power of redemption; let’s put this issue in their hands.”

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

In this, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018 photo, people gather around the Ben & Jerry’s “Yes on 4” truck as they learn about Amendment 4 and eat free ice cream at Charles Hadley Park in Miami.
Associated Press/Wilfredo Lee

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

Reynolds was arrested twice, in 1999 and 2000, on drunk 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, 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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