Iowa Senate Votes to Restore Felon Voting Rights, With Restrictions

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Iowa Senate voted Tuesday evening to give released felons voting rights, but would require them to pay full restitution to victims beforehand. The final vote was 37-11.

Last year, Governor Kim Reynolds called on fellow Republicans to craft a constitutional amendment to automatically give felons voting rights when they’re released from prison. The House passed that measure, but it failed to move forward in the Senate. Governor Reynolds said earlier Tuesday that she would accept the full payment restriction that the Senate later approved. Reynolds called it a compromise she could support because it didn't also require felons to pay court costs and fees.

The Senate bill now moves to the Iowa House for consideration.

Iowa is now the only state that bans felon voting rights when they're released after Kentucky restored them late last year. Currently in Iowa, felons must individually apply to the governor's office to have voting rights reestablished.

The Senate bill excludes serious crimes such as murder and rape from automatic voting rights restoration. Those crimes would still require individual restoration from the governor.

The bill passed by the Senate Tuesday would only go into effect if a constitutional amendment is approved. Constitutional amendments in Iowa must pass the Legislature in two separate two-year legislative sessions and then be approved by voters.

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