Ex-Felons Petition Governor Branstad for Voting Rights

Feb 17, 2015

Up until four years ago, Iowa felons were given back voting rights after finishing their prison sentences. 

In 2011, Governor Terry Branstad changed that policy, so Iowans like Justin McCarthy would have to apply directly to the Governor to have that right restored. 

If we're going to be rehabilitating people in prison instead of just punishing them, then why are we still treated as a second class citizen when we get out? - Justin McCarthy

McCarthy was convicted of federal drug crimes after being caught with two ounces of marijuana and two firearms in his possession. Today, he's served his time and has completed his probation and is in pursuit of a new career and college degree. Now that he’s turned his life around, he believes he deserves to have his right to vote restored without applying.

“If we’re going to be rehabilitating people in prison instead of just punishing them, then why are we still treated as a second class citizen when we get out?”

McCarthy is part of a group in Dubuque that has started a petition protesting the Governor’s policy.  The Dubuque chapter of the NAACP is organizing the effort. They point to the disproportionate number of African-Americans in the state who are removed from eligible voter lists because of criminal histories.

During this River to River conversation, McCarthy talks with host Ben Kieffer. Steve Drahozal, a Dubuque based attorney who drafted the petition, and Jeremy Rosen, Director of the ACLU of Iowa are also guests