Iowa is one of only four states that ban all felons who have discharged their sentences from voting unless the Governor grants clemency and restores their voting rights. In 2011, Governor Branstad reversed Iowa’s policy of automatically restoring voting rights for Iowans who have completed their sentences. Since 2011, when the policy of restoring the fundamental right to vote to Iowans who have completed their sentence was reversed, over 14,000 Iowans have discharged their sentences and not been convicted of a felony again. As of January 14, 2014, only of those 40 Iowans have had their rights restored.
The policy of not restoring voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences unfairly punishes Iowans beyond what the legislature intended. It adds years to a person’s sentence and works against the goal of rehabilitation.
The policy also has a disparate impact on African Americans. Nationwide, African Americans are disenfranchised by felony convictions at a rate over four times higher than that of non-African Americans.
Iowa’s criminal justice system should be aimed at justice. When a felon completes the felon’s sentence, the punishment should end and rehabilitation should begin.
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