Gov. Reynolds signs executive order restoring felon voting rights, one of the top demands by the Des Moines Black Lives Matter Movement

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On Wednesday August 5, Governor Kim Reynolds signed an executive order restoring voting rights to tens of thousands of residents of Iowa with felony convictions.  

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The order that Reynolds signed gives voting rights back to those felons, who have completed their sentence and that includes probation, parole and special sentences that have to do with sex offenses. Also, this executive order is different from the one in Florida, which in the past year caught the attention of the whole nation. The difference is that the executive order that Reynolds signed does not require felons to pay restitution to victims or any other fees or fines before their voting rights are restored. Also, Iowa residents who were convicted of murder, manslaughter and other offenses included in Iowa’s homicide code will not get their rights restored automatically once they complete their sentence. They would have to apply to the governor to get their individual rights restored.  

 

According to some estimates there are between 50,000 to 60,000 residents of Iowa disenfranchised because of felony conviction. Until now Iowa was the only state in the union that still disenfranchised all felons permanently and in order to restore their rights they had to appeal directly to the governor. This policy was disproportionately affecting people of color with 1 in 10 black residents of Iowa of voting age banned from voting, according to The Sentencing Project of 2016.  

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Thanks to pressure from Des Moines Black Lives Matter activists who were calling for restoration of the felon voting rights since June by protesting at the capitol and even outside of the Governor’s residence. The activists met with her twice to discuss the situation before the order was signed.  

 

“It was a great victory unfortunately we did not know about it, about the signing” said a DSM BLM speaker at a press conference later that afternoon at the Evelyn K. Davis Park. “We are here because we wanted to throw our own celebration. It’s important to acknowledge Black youth and Black women for their voices…It is important to listen to us. We’ve been silenced in many ways and for us not being invited to the signing is being silenced in a way ” she added.

 

Reynolds promised to continue pushing for a constitutional amendment that she proposed but which was declined to pass by the Iowa Senate. Reynolds is not the first and only Iowa Governor who has signed an executive order to restore voting rights. In 2005 Governor Vilsack did the same, but his order was reversed by Terry Barnstad in 2011.  

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