DES MOINES, Iowa — It’s about two weeks out from Election Day and Secretary of State Paul Pate believes the 2020 election will be unprecedented. “Iowans take their voting seriously,” Pate said.
This year in Iowa, ballots will be cast by thousands of voters who have previously gone unheard. “It was really important to me. I just felt like I wasn’t a part of this country because I couldn’t vote,” said Rachel Manna of Des Moines, who used to be unable to vote because of a felony conviction.
With Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature in August on an executive order to restore felon voting rights, Manna will become a first-time voter on Nov. 3. “There’s a lot of pride in getting your voting rights restored and I don’t think people realize that when they lose them,” said Manna.
Manna isn’t alone. According to the Secretary of State’s office, as of Oct. 14, a total of 2,550 Iowans with previous felonies have restored their voting rights thanks to the executive order. Pate said, “It’s not about being a felon. It’s about being a citizen and being eligible to vote.”
Because of a past felony, Regina Vaught-Rudish from Des Moines last filled out a ballot in 2008. “I was pretty excited because I think it’s an important election and my vote can be heard,” Vaught-Rudish said.
Pate estimates the executive order benefits around 35,000 Iowans with felonies. While only 7% of that number have restored their voting rights, the 2,550 is still roughly the same number of residents who live in the entire Iowa city of Madrid, which came in at 2,543 during the 2010 U.S. Census. “Whether that is one, ten or 2,500, I think it is very important,” said Pate.
Neither Vaught-Rudish nor Manna are silenced anymore. “Get it restored because every vote counts. It’s your right to vote,” said Vaught-Rudish. They are now heading into Election Day with an equal voice at the polls. “It is what makes this country so special and successful, I believe, in that your voice counts,” Pate said.
Individuals with felony homicide offenses are excluded and must apply to the governor individually. Anyone wishing to check their status or register should go to restoreyourvote.iowa.gov