Iowa Senate GOP’s plan for restrictions on felon voting rights

DES MOINES — Senate Republican have unveiled their proposed limitations if Iowa voters approve a constitutional amendment to automatically restore felon voting rights.

The plan would still force those convicted of murder manslaughter or certain sex crimes to apply to the governor to get their voting rights restored and it would force paroled felons to pay all their restitution before they’d get the right to vote.

“This is not a poll tax. It’s a murder tax. It’s a sexual assault tax. It’s a robbery tax,” Senator Dan Dawson, a Republican from Council Bluffs said. “…We’re not talking about people who randomly just got charged with felonies. We’re talking about persons who made an affirmative decision to go out and commit a serious crime.”

Opponents say linking voting rights to income is wrong. Currently, felons applying to the governor just have to show they’re keeping up with a payment plan to get their voting rights back. Heather Strachan with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Iowa said she’s survived abuse and disagrees with the approach Senate Republicans are proposing. Strachan said she feels safer if her abuser is participating in society and getting the treatment he needs.

“As a survivor, I urge you not to exclude people from voting based on ideas of repayment and protection in my name,” she said.

Iowa is now the only state in the country that does not automatically give felons the right to vote once they’ve completed their sentences. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has been pushing the Senate since last year to pass her proposed constitutional amendment to automatically restore felon voting rights.