DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa House of Representatives has passed a bill that automatically restores voting rights for felons, with restrictions.
Senate File 2348 would automatically grant felons the right to vote after serving their sentence, upon paying all restitution they owe victims before getting the right restored.
However, if the bill becomes law, it would be rendered ineffective because Iowa’s Constitution bars felons from automatically getting their voting rights restored upon discharge of sentence.
A separate measure to amend the constitution is currently making its way through the statehouse. That proposed amendment change does not include restrictions, but will have to pass in two consecutive general assemblies before voters ultimately decide on the proposed change, the earliest that could be is 2021.
At least six Democratic representatives voiced concerns over the bill with restrictions before Wednesday’s vote.
Rep. Monica Kurth, D-Davenport, said this bill does not help the cause.
“I’m angry that we are even considering this bill today in this chamber where the rights of Iowans should be a top consideration,” she said. “This bill is alarmingly discriminatory, because it once again favors those with the money to pay off the fines over those with little money.”
The bill excludes people who are convicted of murder, rape, child endangerment resulting in death, and felony or voter fraud, from getting their voting rights automatically restored. If they want elector privileges, they will have to appeal to the governor as the current system allows.
Rep. Bobby Kauffman, R-Wilton, said the bill is fair and justified.
“We aren’t talking about a late water bill. We are talking about somebody who hurt someone. We are talking about someone who potentially killed someone, not just some dismissive bill they can’t pay,” he said.
The bill passed on a vote of 51 yay and 44 nay.
The bill passed the Iowa Senate in early March before the session was put on hold.