A new group is advocating for legislation to restore the voting rights of Iowa felons. The Coalition for Fair Restoration of Voting Rights comprises 17 groups, including the ACLU of Iowa, and the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP.
The long-term goal is a constitutional amendment that ends felony disenfranchisement from the ballot box. But the coalition is also proposing legislation for the next session that allows people with less serious felonies to vote.
“That standard is consistent with existing framework in the Iowa law and the way we classify crimes currently,” says the ACLU’s Rita Bettis. “It’s also a matter of common sense to treat less serious and nonviolent crimes less harshly.”
Iowa is one of only three states that permanently disenfranchises people with felony convictions. Felons can apply for restoration of their voting rights, however the critics contend that process is Byzantine and costly.
“This is a situation where people have already served their time. Justice has been exacted, and people are continuing to suffer the collateral damage,” says Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP.
The 2017 Legislative Session convenes on January 9, 2017.