From the day that he took his oath of office Iowa governor Terry Branstad (R) was determined to make voting more of a hardship than an option for those with a felony conviction. Branstad immediately issued an executive order that disallowed felons to vote once they were clear of state supervision unless they adhered to a grueling application process fraught with barriers. Branstad’s predecessor former, governor Tom Vilsack (D), ended disenfranchisement during his term by allowing felons to vote upon completion of their supervision.
An Associated Press investigation discovered that of 8,000 Iowans who completed their sentences or community supervision obligations, only 12 completed the rigorous process set forth by Branstad that allows them to vote. The complete AP article can be read by clicking on the link at the end of this article.
According to AP, a convicted felon wishing to get his or her voting rights restored must go through a lengthy procedure that includes:
Submitting a full credit report.
Filling out a 31-question application that asks for information such as the address of the judge who handled the conviction.
Supplying a criminal history report, which takes weeks and costs $15.
The AP revealed that a review of an application can take as long as six months, and that even with the help of an attorney in filling out the application, the application might be rejected for failure to include proper documentation.
Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, is quoted as saying Branstad is “making your right to vote contingent on your financial abilities." Opponents of Branstad’s policy claim that the poor and blacks are disenfranchised.
In Kentucky, Florida, and Virginia convicted felons have to apply to the governor to restore voting rights, but they don’t have to submit a credit report, as in Iowa, according to AP, which also relates that in 38 states voting rights are automatically restored to most felons once their sentences are completed. Maine and Vermont do not take voting rights away from convicted felons. The AP report states that in some states convicted felons must wait a certain amount of time before restoration is gained.
Unlike Iowa, Virginia is attempting to end disenfranchisement. The Sentencing Project reports that Governor Robert McDonnell (R) is making a solid effort to restore voting rights and has received a “substantial number of applications.” With 5.3 million Americans denied the right to vote because of a felony conviction, McDonell’s attempt is a welcome step in the right direction, but brings attention to just how many citizens are cast aside, rather than allowed to cast a ballot.
Sources: Associated Press and The Sentencing Project