Felon Voting Rights Limitation Bill Advances in House

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DES MOINES, Iowa — A Senate-passed measure that would automatically restore voting rights for felons, with restrictions, got its first green light in the Iowa House.

The constitutional amendment would automatically grant felons the right to vote after serving their sentence, upon paying all the restitution they owe victims before getting that right restored.

Last week, Governor Kim Reynolds said she will support this bill, despite previously expressing desire to have a “clean” amendment — restoring rights for all felons and allowing them to have a payment plan for restitution.

Several lobbyists urged representatives to only require that felons are up to speed with their restitution payment plan in order to get their voting rights back.

“It can take a lifetime to pay off restitution, but it’s the right thing to do,” Greg Baker, of The Family Leader, said.

Baker said his group is in favor of providing a second chance to felons after serving their sentence.

“There has to be a point where we allow the person to move on and become a part of society again,” Baker said.

Representative Steven Holt, R-Denison, said the legislature is already doing a lot to provide second chances. However, he argued it is important for the victim to receive full damages in restitution first, before the felon may get voting rights back. He also argued in cases of heinous crimes, those felons do not deserve to automatically get their voting rights restored.

“Most of my caucus would not support this had we not clarified murderers and rapists wouldn’t automatically get their rights restored,” Holt said. “It’s the only way the Senate will pass if we make it clear not everyone automatically gets rights back.”

The bill is ready for debate in a House judiciary committee Wednesday after a subcommittee hearing Monday morning. If the bill is passed in both chambers again next general assembly and signed off by the governor, Iowa voters will eventually have the ultimate say.

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