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Iowa has significant disparities in arrests and incarceration of black citizens—only 4% of Iowa’s population is black, but more than 25% of our prison population is black.

The sad truth is that Iowa is the last state in the nation to ban restoring voting rights for former felons. These citizens return home, where they’re working, paying taxes and contributing to their communities.  They also deserve to participate in their government.

That’s why I back a constitutional amendment to allow people convicted of felonies to automatically have their rights restored after they serve their sentences. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans did not take up the bipartisan legislation that awaited their action over the past two years. That means the earliest voting rights could be automatically restored through the Iowa Constitution is 2024.

In the meantime, Governor Reynolds should restore voting rights through an executive order in time to allow former felons to vote in the November general election.

Janet Petersen

Author: Janet Petersen