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Iowa Governor Will Restore Voting Rights To Felons

Gov. Kim Reynolds confirmed she will issue an executive order restoring voting rights to felons ahead of this year's election. Iowa is the only state with such a ban.

Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday that she plans to sign an executive order this summer restoring voting rights to felons who have earned parole.

Iowa is the only remaining state to deny voting rights to felons for life.

“We’re working on that right now, sitting down with various groups, listening to what they think is important ―  what is contained in that executive order,” Reynolds told KGLO News in Iowa on Tuesday. “I’ve got my legal team working on it,” she added.

Civil rights activists in Iowa have pushed the governor to issue the executive order, and her announcement comes amid nationwide anti-racism protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis police custody.  

Protesters have demonstrated in Des Moines since last month, and many have made felon enfranchisement their priority, listing it among their demands for immediate criminal justice reforms. Iowa locks up Black people at a rate more than 10 times higher than that of white people, according to the Prison Policy Initiative

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds

The Des Moines chapter of Black Lives Matter pressured Reynolds for a meeting to discuss restoring voting rights to felons after the Iowa legislature failed to pass a constitutional amendment Sunday that would have done so. Black Lives Matter organization members met with the governor on Monday to discuss issuing an executive order.

Republicans in Iowa have recently redoubled their efforts to restrict voter access. In addition to opposing the felon enfranchisement amendment, local Republican lawmakers drafted a bill that would effectively prevent Iowa’s secretary of state from mailing absentee ballot applications to registered voters who may wish to vote from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

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